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Commission discusses ways to move Comite Diversion Project forward

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BATON ROUGE - As residents and business owners are waiting for floodwater to go down, the Amite River Basin Commission met Tuesday for a regularly scheduled meeting. 

Board members spoke about the number of phone calls they have received in the last few days about the delayed Comite River Diversion Canal project.

The project, in the works for decades is supposed to keep thousands of residents dry during high water events. Once complete, it would divert about 45 percent of the water from the Comite River into the Mississippi River.

"It's been a very difficult project to build primarily because the lack of federal funds," Commission Executive Director Dietmar Rietschier says.

The commission says they have a plan when it comes to where structures including bridges will be built, but the money to build those structures and complete the project isn't available. Rietschier says two bridges, for a Highway 61 and a railroad are the next major pieces of construction.

"The only reliable funds that we have are out tax dollars," he said. "They generally represent 10-15 percent of the project cost."

About 100,000 people are paying that tax.

Monday, Rep. Valerie Hodges said an unexpected and expensive snag to relocate utilities cropped up between the control structure and the Comite River. She tells WBRZ the cost will be between $30-40 million.

Already, about $100 million has been spent on the project. Another $200 million is needed to complete the canal. Rietschier is hopeful something will come out of the legislative session happening now at the Capitol.

"We have a problem," he said. "But we cannot resolve it without the help of our legislators."


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