Comite Diversion Canal

The Comite River Diversion Canal.

BATON ROUGE – The ongoing progress on the utility relocation for the Comite River Diversion Canal will lead to plans on the next phase of the long-awaited project.

Discussion will begin with the state Department of Transportation and Development on construction of the Darlington Reservoir, state Rep. Valarie Hodges told the Comite River Task Force at its meeting March 13 at the State Capitol.

Hodges, who heads the task force, said she expects updates soon on the reservoir phase of the project.

Work began in January on the relocation of electrical, phone, and gas lines as part of the process to make way for construction of a railroad and highway bridge across U.S. 61 between Baton Rouge and Zachary.

Rainy weather has delayed work, however, on the relocation of a natural gas pipeline and removal of old pipelines.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will award the construction contract for the work on the U.S. 61/Kansas City Southern Bridge at the end of May.

The state Department of Transportation and Development closed the advertising process at the end of February on the construction design for the bridge along state highways 19 and 67.

Work has reached the halfway point for the construction design on La. 964.

Hodges has also requested deadlines from the COE and DOTD, along with explanations on the delays.

The task force will continue its quarterly meetings until the completion of the project, said Hodges, R-Denham Springs.

Legislation in 2014 led to creation of the task force to ensure completion of the project, which came about as a flood control measure after the April 1983 flood – the worst rain event on record for the region until the August 2016 rain disaster.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocated $343 million – 100 percent federal funding – to finish the flood protection project which has been on the drawing board since 1985.

The bill covers nearly $3 billion in federal funding for priority flood and hurricane protection projects in south Louisiana. 

Livingston, East Baton Rouge, and Ascension Parish taxpayers have paid a 2.65-mill property tax since 2000 to fund the project, which remains in the first phase of construction. The project was conceived in response to the 1983 flood, which was the benchmark natural disaster for the three parishes until the Great Flood of 2016.

The funding package includes nearly $1.4 billion in new federal funding and approximately $1.5 billion in previously announced flood protection and mitigation funding, according to Graves, who has worked closely with the White House, Army, and Corps leadership on appropriations, expediting projects and realigning priorities.

The millage comes up for renewal in 2020. The funds from the tax cover the costs of work not covered by the federal government, according to Dietmar Rietschier, executive director of the Amite River Basin Commission.

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