BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) ––– We first brought you an update on the Comite River diversion project in February, but dissatisfaction has grown in what residents are calling a lack of urgency.
“We’re very frustrated in the fact that the canal should have been finished by now,” says Zachary resident Robert Burns.
The Comite River diversion project is designed to divert overflow from the Comite River into the Mississippi River to protect life and property from significant flood events.
“I think the Corps of engineers and DOTD are treating this kind of like the adding a lane on the interstate… this is lifesaving, billions of dollars in jeopardy type of work,” says Robert Burns.
Burns is part of a Facebook page called Concerned Citizens for Diversion Canal. The page is dedicated to keeping a progress report on the project.
“We believe unequivocally that accountability of the people running this project is absolutely essential and that accountability has been lacking if not totally missing in the work on the project,” says Robert Burns.
Congressman Garret Graves, who spearheaded funding for the project, says residents are not alone in how they feel.
“We’re just as frustrated as everybody else by the delays, but I’ll say it again. I’ve never seen the Corps of engineers hit a deadline ever,” says Graves.
But homeowners are not only concerned with the project’s status, and many are fearful of another devastating flood.
“When I had to gut my house and put almost everything I owned and loved on the street, like a pile of trash still puts knots in my stomach… when it rains for a few hours and the rivers start to come up. we get PTSD,”
Graves says there are a few primary issues in completing the project, “one of them is some of the delays in final designs, and if you don’t have a final design, then they don’t know where to acquire property… if you have a natural gas pipeline, water, wastewater, sewer oil, whatever it is, internet, you’ve got to come through and you have to move those utilities.”
Citizens invested in completing the project are asking for weekly status reports, but Graves says he meets with the corp of engineers regularly and releases monthly updates.
“I’ll tell you, we’re doing regular meetings with the Corps of engineers now trying to force them to stay on schedule as best as possible,” says Graves.
As of now, the estimated completion date for the project is December 2022.