Lawmakers warn Comite Diversion Canal project is not final flooding solution

Lawmakers warn Comite Diversion Canal project is not final flooding solution

(WAFB) - Despite new federal funding for flood mitigation projects in Louisiana, lawmakers say their work is not over.

"We can't expect this project to move forward and get completed just because we have the money available now," said Comite Diversion Task Force Chair Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs.

Members of Louisiana's congressional delegation announced July 5 that the state had secured an additional $1.2 billion in federal funding that would allow for the completion of stalled projects, like the Comite Diversion.

RELATED VIDEO: After 30 years, Comite Diversion Canal project now fully funded

"We've had victories before and we've had money before," Hodges said. "And that project did not get completed. Time and money were squandered."

Hodges and other lawmakers cautioned against a premature celebration, telling Louisiana's congressional delegation and the state legislature not to rest on their laurels until all proposed flood mitigation projects are completed. Paul Sawyer, chief of staff for Rep. Garret Graves, says he "fully expects unforeseen hang-ups to occur."

The task force also noted the Comite Diversion is not an end-all solution to flooding in the capital region. Many of the projects that are finally getting funding were developed after historic flooding in 1983. Lawmakers will happily take the money, but say they fear the plans are outdated.

"That's a very important distinction that needs to be made," Sawyer said. "We are only achieving 1983 protection. We need 2016, 2018 protection."

But the task force is cautiously optimistic. Members say Louisiana secured the funding because of intentional persistence, and promised lawmakers will continue to apply the same pressure. "Success is not an accident," Hodges said. "Now we have the money and there's no excuse. We've got to get it done."

Sawyer says he still expects the Comite Diversion to be finished in three or four years. Initial construction on other projects funded with new federal funding should begin in August.

The state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to clear gas lines from construction areas. It will also open a bidding process so local companies can help finish the construction process.

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