DENHAM SPRINGS – Teamwork played a vital role in the efforts to secure funding to complete the Comite River Diversion Canal, state Rep. Valarie Hodges said Wednesday.
The formation of a task force and help from the state delegation in Washington brought funding to fruition for a project on the drawing board nearly 30 years, said Hodges, who spoke at the Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Parish luncheon at Forest Grove Plantation.
“Because of teamwork on the Comite Task Force, we brought everyone together everyone who was supposed to be doing the work, we asked what the problem was, and we got things lined up,” said Hodges, R-Denham Springs, who received legislative approval in 2013 to form the Comite River Diversion Canal Task Force.
The task force brought to the table legislative representation, municipal and parish leaders, and officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Amite River Basin Commission.
The efforts by Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves, R-District 6, and U.S. senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy – both Republicans from Baton Rouge – hit home to secure the $343 million needed to finish the project, she said.
The project lagged despite $200 million in state funding. “Money wasn’t the problem – it was a lack of communication,” Hodges said.
The project has since moved forward on the relocation of pipelines and utility lines to make way for a bridge across U.S. 61 to accommodate the railroad track, as part of Functional Element 2 of the project.
“They’re moving dirt as we speak,” she said. “This is the biggest component of the project, so from there it’s just a matter of digging a ditch to lead water to the Mississippi River.”
The full funding came to fruition six months after COE Col. Mike Clancy told task force members the project’s cost-benefits ratio would hamper the chances of completion.
“What we’re seeing now is nothing short of a miracle, and God uses people to make things happen,” Hodges said. “Six months after that, we’re sitting here with roughly $380 million, so within three to five years, it will be built.
“When we put partisan politics aside, it works for the people of Louisiana,” she said.