(WAFB) - After almost three decades, the Comite River Diversion Canal project has now been fully funded by the federal government.
Many local officials, including Governor John Bel Edwards, released statements after Thursday's announcement.
"For nearly three decades, construction of the Comite River Diversion canal has been tied up because of red tape from the federal government. Today, that wait is over. After multiple meetings with both the Obama and Trump administrations, we are taking a historic step forward with this critical project. In a meeting with the Trump administration earlier this year, we committed significant state resources to jump start this project, in addition to committing that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development would construct the four vehicle bridges that are needed," said Edwards.
Nearly $3 billion has been allocated to flood and hurricane protection projects in the state. More than half a billion will be allocated to complete the Comite Diversion Canal project and other major flood control projects in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Congressman Garret Graves, as chair of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, has been working closely with the White House and the Army Corps of Engineers to secure this funding.
"This is not a drill. This is not merely a hope and prayer. The logjam has been completely broken, and we are getting the best flood protection we've ever had. Comite will be completed in three to four years, and the flood protection we deserved in 1983 and again in 2016 will soon arrive throughout the Capital region and the state," said Graves.
The new federal funding includes:
- $343 million (100 percent federal funding) Comite River Diversion Canal
- $255 million East Baton Rouge flood control
- $760 million West Shore Hurricane Protection Project (St. John, St. Charles, and St. James parishes)
- $15 million Grand Isle protection and berm reconstruction
- $15 million to develop coastal restoration and flood protection solutions (Amite River, Lake Pontchartrain, and vicinity, Westbank and vicinity, south central Louisiana, and Upper Barataria)
Other recently announced federal funding includes:
- $300 million in fiscal year 2018 Corps of Engineers funding (including $14 million for Comite)
- $300 million FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
- $1.2 billion in Community Development Block Grant flood mitigation
- $50 million in USDA funding specifically for Livingston Parish flood mitigation (made available via the "Graves’ amendment" in the March 2018 federal funding bill)
Senator Bill Cassidy also released a statement after Thursday's announcement.
"After decades, this is the day we have been waiting and fighting for. Securing the funding for the Comite River Diversion and other flood prevention projects is a major win for Louisiana families," said Cassidy. "I will continue to work with local and state officials to make sure that all of our flood protection needs are met."
And Senator John Kennedy commented, saying, "The Comite River Diversion Canal has been on the drawing board for decades. A lot of people have watched their homes flood waiting for the diversion canal to be built. Families and businesses in multiple parishes desperately need this funding. The time for meetings and excuses is over, it's time to get it built. I cannot emphasize enough how much this funding will mean for families and business owners who worry every time it rains."