Comite River Diversion Canal project could see speed up
BATON ROUGE- The Comite River is set to crest 2 1/2 feet above flood stage.
The Comite River Diversion Project was planned after floods in the early 80s to prevent flooding. Fifty-three hundred homes and businesses in three parishes were damaged.
The diversion canal is 12 miles long and will take flood water from the Comite to the Mississippi River.
But state and federal funding set-backs, land purchases and wetlands conservation efforts have pushed the completion date for the canal to 2018. It was originally scheduled to be done this year.
"Every time it rains, or the Comite or the Amite River water gets high, it's a reminder, today is a reminder of the importance of this project," said project manager Dietmar Rietschier.
The first phase of the Comite River Diversion Canal was finally finished this past month. But despite it's significance, the project manager fears the financial struggles that held up part one, may drag along through the rest of the canal construction, even though a local tax is paying for $24 million of the current $189 million price tag.
He said, "We are okay for the time being, but only for a short period of time, hopefully, that by the time we're going to be needing additional funds, that the economy will have improved in the next year or so."
What is guaranteed to improve is the deadline on the project. The local diversion commission is taking on the task of buying land to build and leaving just the actual building to the Army Corps of Engineers.
"We will move faster on this project, it's just a big project and it takes time, I'm just hoping we will not have a major flood event before then," said Rietschier.
The project manager hopes to start on the next phase, the bridge over Plank Road, by the summer. There's also a lawsuit over the project, which claims some people were illegally taxed to help pay for it.