Announcement that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will fully fund the remaining construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal brought a new sense of hope that the project may finally come to fruition.
State and federal budget cuts, squabbles over mitigation and questions from the corps over the cost-benefit ratio rightfully led to doubts about the future of the project.
Congratulations go to the many government officials from all levels who helped continue discussion of the project.
Without their efforts, it’s very likely the corps never would have even addressed the notion of full funding.
Discussion of the project began in the 1980’s. Just how long ago was that? Ronald Reagan was president. Edwin Edwards was in his third of four terms as governor.
The project was already long behind schedule when officials broke ground in March 2003, at which time they promised completion by 2008. So much for the banner which read, “Finally!”
Officials had every reason that day to believe they would see the project reach the finish line. It’s unlikely any of them would have foreseen talks about construction 15 years after the groundbreaking.
We have rejoiced about the full funding for the remaining construction.
Indeed, it is a milestone for this long-awaited project.
At the same time, it may prove wise to use the “Finally!” banner as a lesson in how we approach the project in 2018.
Officials believe the funding commitment will make dirt move for the project and eventually bring it to completion.
We hope so, but we cannot let our guards down. Commitment from the corps may not guarantee immediate work on the project.
A time frame of three to five years seems ambitious for completion, but it sounded that way in 2003 as well.
Local, state and federal officials worked to maintain discussion of the project, and to demand its completion.
We need to follow the same approach we have seen since the formation of the Comite River Task Force in 2013, which revived what had become a dormant discussion topic.
Perhaps more than ever before, our leaders need to stay persistent in their approach to the corps.
Otherwise, this same discussion may continue into 2033.