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Central leaders levy blame for unfinished Comite River Canal

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CENTRAL- City politicians and residents hashed out why the Comite River Diversion Canal lies unfinished Thursday evening. The small group met at the Knights of Columbus hall off Greenwell Springs Road.

According to reports the diversion canal would have reduced the August flooding by several feet in certain areas. Residents started paying property taxes for the canal back in 2000. At the time, the project was estimated to take 9 years at most to complete.

Councilman Wayne Messina said the reason for the unfinished canal is multi-faceted. "We've got the wagons circled but we're all shooting inward," he said.

Messina said the blame lies with Army Corps of Engineers, Congress and in some cases the State of Louisiana. He said the Army Corps has not agreed to finish the project because it isn't seen as a priority.

A spokesperson with the Corps tells News 2 the canal is competing with other worthwhile projects across the country for a limited amount of federal money.

As for Congress, Messina said they still need to appropriate $220 million in federal money. Louisiana's federal delegation tells city leaders they will seek that money this year.

Messina also said Governor Edwards should have carved out the needed money from the $1.6 billion Congress has allocated for disaster relief after the flood. However, the governor's office tells News 2 they did request federal money for the canal but were denied. They added the $1.6 billion is earmarked for flood damaged homes and their hands are tied on how they spend the money.

Central Mayor Jr. Shelton told residents at Thursday's meeting to keep up the pressure on state and federal representatives until to canal is built.

Residents are encouraged to contact the following politicians:

-U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy 225-929-7711

-U.S. Senator John Kennedy 225-930-9033

-State Senator Bodi White 225-272-1324

-U.S. Representative Garret Graves 202-225-3901

-Governor John Bel Edwards 225-342-7015


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