Willows flooded

The streets of the Willow Subdivision turned into a canal system early Friday morning after torrential rains covered Livingston Parish. While the Willows eventually drained by noon, many citizens living off of Jason Drive and in Willow Pointe - just over Gray's Creek - had to be evacuated by the National Guard.

Like a phoenix arising from the ashes, suddenly the Darlington Reservoir has become a real project.   

Recently, an announcement came through from Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, that work on the Comite River Diversion Canal continues with new federal funds flowing in, and the Comite River Task Force has moved on to more drainage projects.

Initially, in the 1980s, the Darlington Reservoir was slated at roughly $100 million. The roughly 500-acre lake would sit between Greensburg and Clinton, providing an economic boom with recreational fishing and water sports, as well as new development.

However, the project was eventually chopped down to a lot of bureaucratic mess, including a misrepresentation of the cost by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

To hear Jeff David tell it, the corps and Environmental Protection Agency office out of New Orleans used river silt to determine the cost of shoring up a dam, which is wildly more expensive than building within and upon the red clay north of Livingston Parish.

Another story, for another time – the result was “budgetary issues” and no dam or reservoir and everyone simply had to “move on.”

Well, after the Great Flood of 2016, the citizens of Livingston Parish aren’t going to move on, not anymore. Especially considering that, even at this point 2½ years later, the same exact thing could happen again leads to a bad taste in people’s mouth – and a distinct feeling that if it happens again, tomorrow, most would “move on …”

… as in move away.

What this shows, as well, is not just a response to the idea that the Great Flood could easily repeat with current drainage standards in place, it shows an understanding that the Comite River Diversion Canal just isn’t enough.

Estimates were drawn up during all the post-flood coverage, that suggested the diversion canal could have helped with flood elevations – in the Denham Springs area – to the tune of 1.5 feet to 3 feet, which were expressed in a form of “wishful thinking” and “conservative” estimates.

Observant readers will notice that, even in the wishful thinking scenario, that doesn’t come close to fixing the problem. Many homes received 5 feet, 6 feet, all the way up to “I found my water line on the roof.” So, in order to be better prepared for future massive rain events, which have continued to happen in recent years all around the Southeast, the Amite and Comite River basins require a plethora of projects to provide some peace of mind.

And that’s happening – between the final funding of the Comite River

Diversion Canal, federal grant funds to clean the Amite River and grant funds to improve the Amite River weir near French Settlement, to a capital-area group which is a gathering of members of the Community Rating System that will band together for regional drainage projects, and now the Darlington project being resurrected. The number of projects and their scope has widened to meet the very clear demand for better protection against flooding events.

Yes, it’s going to cost more than the $100 million initial tab. All said and done, the Comite project will cost, roughly, four times as much as initial estimates, so it’s not far-fetched to take that figure to this project as well.

However, the economic benefit will be realized quickly, and it will provide more long-term security against large-scale flood events.

Because no one wants to be nervous every time it rains.

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