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La. Congressman comments on long overdue Comite River Diversion Canal project
ZACHARY - We're getting new updates on the highly anticipated Comite River Diversion Canal Project, with a lot of work currently underway right now. That progress is coming along, and drivers can even see it, but just how long could it take?
Congressman Garret Graves spoke with WBRZ this week, stressing that this project is long overdue. It's been in the works since the 1980s and probably won't be completed for another two years.
"There were all sorts of obstacles including funding and legal issues and others and we were able to work them through and knock them all out," said Graves. "You deserve a project that should've been delivered a lot faster. Money's in the bag, it's moving forward, and we are staying vigilant over the project construction and anytime it comes up that appears to be an obstacle impediment, we're trying to resolve it."
Still, progress can be seen from the roads. On Plank Road in Zachary, a giant canal has been carved from forested fields and we have an entirely new river.
"In some cases, the bridges are already finished and people are driving on them, in other cases new bridges are being built, including the railroad bridges complete as well," said Graves. "The only areas where you're not seeing much progress is the area where those pipelines were crossing, there was no construction or digging of a new canal or river there because they had to work through the pipeline crossing issue."
The project has been delayed for decades, causing frustration for people who live near the Comite River. Graves said this project has gone through several bumps in the road, including developers, contractors, funding, and an interstate pipeline that was underneath the roads.
"What that did, at one point, it looked like it was going to add hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs to the project as well as years of delays," Graves said. "We are probably two-plus years away from completion, but that doesn't mean that the community isn't going to see benefits before then, and I do think we will see some flood relief benefits before the project is fully completed," said Graves.
On Tuesday, the Comite River Diversion Canal Project Task Force met at the capitol. People who live near the Comite River voiced their concerns over the completion of the project and if it would be delayed again due to funding. Graves told WBRZ funding shouldn't be an issue moving forward.
"Right now we're at $520 million," said Graves. "There's a chance that it could go up a little bit more and we've been working with the Corps of Engineers and folks in Congress to make sure that the additional dollars are there but we're waiting on revised cost estimates. It's over half a billion dollars but the good news is, all that money is in the bank today."
Now that the canal is being built, some bridges are completed including railroad bridges, the next step is just more digging.
"We're talking millions of cubic yards of material," Graves continued. "That is the biggest part is getting all that dirt out of there, getting it somewhere else, that really is the biggest component in addition to the bridges, what we refer to as drop structures. That's just where the White Bayou and others are coming into this new canal but, the biggest thing, the most time-consuming thing we're going to see over the next few years is just digging."
The project is expected to be completed in 2025.
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