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Residents along Amite River plead for dredging as flooding concerns mount

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CENTRAL- Residents living along the Amite River are calling for the river to be dredged after rain last week caused water to get uncomfortably close to their properties.

Retired East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Captain Bobby Dale Callender has lived along the river for more than two decades. He's worked every major flood in his 45-year career in law enforcement and believes log jams and silt are exacerbating the flooding.

"I know that river," Callender said. "I've lived on it for 25 years, and I've lived in Central my whole 71 years of life."

Callender said the water that encroached close to his property over the weekend is an example of what has been happening frequently whenever it rains heavily.

The last time the Amite River was dredged was in 1956. An agreement between Livingston, East Baton Rouge, and Ascension parishes to maintain it apparently fell by the wayside.

"It was somewhat of a unique agreement back in 1955 when Congress passed legislation to provide for dredging on the Amite and Comite rivers," Congressman Garret Graves said last year. "It required that the parishes come in to provide an agreement to maintain and upkeep the rivers."

Dietmar Reitschier heads up the Amite River Basin Commission and he agrees that dredging needs to happen and needs to happen soon.

"Things will get worse, and I believe the sedimentation will continue happening," Reitschier said.

Right now, money is the biggest issue. Although officials just broke ground this month on the Comite River Diversion Canal, the ambitious project will not be the answer as so many people have developed in flood-prone areas since the 1950s, according to Reitschier.

That has neighbors like Callender concerned and pleading for something to be done.

"The worst part is time heals everything," Callender said. "Everyone forgets and moves on to something else."

The Amite River Basin Commission intends to discuss this issue at a meeting next month.

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