ZACHARY, LA (WAFB) - Lawmakers broke ground Wednesday, April 17 on the long-awaited Comite River Diversion Canal project that could save thousands in the capital region time and money by lowering floodwater.
The canal will drain the Comite into the Mississippi during high-water events, potentially mitigating flooding in the entire Baton Rouge region, but particularly aiding residents in Livingston and northern East Baton Rouge parishes.
“For nearly 30 years, construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal had literally been tied up in federal red tape," Governor John Bel Edwards said. "It lacked a real funding commitment, and yet the need to complete the project has only grown.”
The project found more than $300 million in federal funding when Congress prioritized flood mitigation after devastating hurricanes in Texas, Puerto Rico, and Florida.
"We got to step up and say, ‘Wait a second. What about the Great Flood of 2016?' U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy said. "If you look at the dollar value of the damage, and the lives and families so powerfully affected, there’s as much a case to be made to address that issue as for the surrounding hurricanes.”
The project was proposed in the late 1970s, and lawmakers broke ground on a $30 million portion of the project in 2003 at Lilly Bayou. It sits mostly useless now, but will be tied into the final structure.
“This is serious. This is definitive. This is happening,” U.S. Representative Garret Graves said. "This project is a no-brainer because we’re going to pay one or way or another, either through FEMA and extra flood costs while picking up our communities, rebuilding our businesses, and rebuilding our homes, or we can be proactive and make an investment that’s going to save money and pay off over time.”
Workers are now moving utilities from underneath Airline Highway. Digging could begin as soon as August, and DOTD will have to build a bridge over the canal. A by-pass is already in place.
The 12-mile canal should be finished in early 2021.
The project consists of a 12-mile long diversion canal from the Comite River to the Mississippi River, as well as:
- Diversion structure at the Comite River
- Guide levees
- Control structure at Lilly Bayou control
- 4 drop structures at the intersections of the diversion channel with McHugh Road, Bayou Baton Rouge, Cypress Bayou, and White Bayou, as well as Highway and Railroad bridges
- Low-flow augmentation pumps at intercepted streams
- Earthen closure at Brooks Lake
- Clearing and snagging of Bayou Baton Rouge, White Bayou and Cypress Bayou north of the diversion channel will reduce flooding in those areas