State leaders discuss flood mitigation with officials in Washington

Halen Doughty

Discussions are ongoing between state and federal leaders about the importance of flood mitigation in Louisiana following the two catastrophic floods last year.

Governor John Bel Edwards and Department of Transportation Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson met with officials in Washington, D.C., on Monday to discuss the Comite River Diversion Canal, a significant project the state has been waiting to begin since 1992.

This project is designed to lower the level of the Comite as it travels down to meet with the Amite River. It's essentially a big ditch that will have the necessary structures to move water effectively when it reaches a certain level, as opposed to going downstream to flood homes and businesses along the river.

Wilson said the diversion could help curb the devastation should Louisiana face another historic flood. He said if the project had been complete during the flood last August, some homes may have been spared the destruction of the rising water.

"Had we had the diversion, the flooding would have been lessened. It may not have been fully prevented, but it would have been lessened," Wilson said.

The project would be funded in part through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wilson said the state is working with our federal partners and congressional delegation to find the necessary $125 million in federal monies to begin construction. The state's match for the project has already been allocated in capital outlay.

Wilson said at Monday's meeting, federal officials expressed their interest in working with the state to get the project started and noted the importance of the canal for the region. He said they're taking a comprehensive look at how water is managed across the state.

"We want to build something for the citizens that they will begin to reap benefits immediately upon its completion," Wilson said.

Wilson said the state is looking for assurances from the federal government that once the project beings, the funds will be there to see it through to the end. He said the meeting was a step in the right direction.

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