There’s rocks, there’s hard places, and then there’s Louisiana’s construction process.

The public construction process, anyway.

For years the Comite River Diversion Canal process languished in a limbo, passed from governmental entity to governmental entity, championed by a variety of political officials. It took 30 years to get it pushed through.

Now, it appears the big ditch will be a reality. Surprisingly, those folks who have been most critical – and the biggest pushers of the project – are pleased with the process as it stands. Concurrent building projects and the immediately moving of utilities without delay please such people as Rep. Valarie Hodges and Congressman Garret Graves.

However, while a small celebration is in order to keep morale high, the Comite is still a 1986 project. Drainage, being mostly 30 years behind, must take the front face and a new life if we’re to avoid the sins of the past.

Initial estimates on the Darlington Reservoir, a 500-acre wet (constantly filled) reservoir north of Livingston Parish, show good impact on the Amite River Basin. Now, however, taxpayers must wait for cost-benefit analysis from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to see if the project is, by its standards, worth the price of poker.

Sound familiar?

The positive? Graves & Company aren’t going to rest on their laurels after this victory. But they aren’t going to push something that may end up falling into the aforementioned limbo. Part of that process occurred for the Comite because of a bad cost-benefit analysis. Eventually it was pushed through, but the question was never asked – if not the Comite, then what?

Graves already is preparing that question if the corps comes back with a negative analysis – which is the best strategy. If anything can come screeching to a halt it’s a government project which gets put at the bottom of the pile because it didn’t meet certain criteria.

Want back on top? Squeak that wheel, which is especially true with the competitive nature of the corps and its projects – and federal funds.

There is a double-edged sword in play, as well, with the corps announcing a reboot on the study of the Amite River Basin. In the “pro” column is an updated analysis of the basin that will (hopefully) provide better planning for future drainage projects.

The “con?” Well, the corps is “studying” something which means it can use that as an excuse to hold up projects until the study is complete, never mind that local citizens understand that nothing has been done to help regional drainage in the area – nothing completed, anyway.

And patience is running thin.

The lesson? If you want something done in Louisiana, you have to keep moving and keep pushing. If at any point you stop, then the project stops, and you run the chance of that project disappearing into the bureaucratic and financial abyss – a place where only lawyers and engineers get paid.

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