Street corner

Water covers the intersection of Ina Drive and Betty Drive in Walker on Aug. 12, 2016.

It’s been almost two years since water covered most of Livingston Parish. The Great Flood of 2016 saw 31 inches of rain fall over the Comite and Amite river basins in a short amount of time, which covered areas on both the eastern and western sides of the parish.

The event was, in a word, devastating -- billions of dollars in damages, exposure of flaws in disaster mitigation infrastructure, issues with insurance, frustration with the Restore Louisiana program … the list goes on.

But, there have been positive effects from the flood that have pushed the parish in a good direction. Political effort and participation in flood mitigation projects, such as the Comite River Diversion Canal, has increased in such a way that those projects are finally coming to fruition. The canal, after 30 years, has been funded. Plans to clear waterways, including the Amite River, which haven’t been dredged in almost 60 years, are underway. Older homes have been modernized; new businesses have opened, and the community has gathered around schools as they continue to recover.

Don’t forget the City of Denham Springs, which has harnessed the flood to push forward into a new era – via Denham Strong – to turn the city from a “bedroom community” into, simply, a “community.”

Interestingly enough, however, with the exception of Denham Strong,  these events are nothing new. A look into the past pages of, what was then, the Denham Springs News shows a similar series of events following terrible floods in 1977 and 1983. Two years of recovery, some big drainage projects, tips of the hat, drinks, and the issue faded into a twice-a-year check-in.

Coverage of the flood lasted a little past 24 months after the 1983 version, mostly because it was so close to its 1977 counterpart.

The News has received feedback that some folks are experiencing “flood fatigue” – and why shouldn’t they? It’s taken two years to get the ball rolling on the duplication of benefits issues, two years before the final survey portion of the Restore Louisiana program was accepted, and even two years before the funds came through for the Comite River Diversion Canal.

Those are just a few issues plaguing the post-flood world, which doesn’t include local drainage cleanup and new drainage infrastructure. Those issues are the reasons coverage cannot stop. The Comite Diversion River  Canal is just the beginning – it would have only lowered the river stage in the Denham Springs area by, in the best case scenario, 2 feet.

It’s just the beginning.

As stated by Congressman Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, regional drainage projects will become the new normal, and participation by all involved is necessary. The Comite is a kickoff of sorts for what will become years of drainage work to make sure water moves through canals, rivers, ditches, creeks, and bayous as opposed to streets, yards, and homes.

Graves’ other goal is to make sure that the federal government’s finances remain balanced, and allocated grant money focuses on infrastructure and drainage projects first. He believes that, if the government is a reliable funding partner, more large-scale drainage projects can be affected.

The fact of the matter is drainage, next to roads, is the most important thing in Louisiana. This state drains nearly 60 percent of the country, not to mention our own weather patterns in the southern half of the state are sub-tropical in nature. It’s going to rain, a lot, during the year and as more people move into the parish and development surges, the cost of recovery goes up to devastating levels.

The cost of recovery will always be more expensive than the cost of prevention, and that’s why our community must never forget the Great Flood of 2016, and the actions of those who came during the 1977 and 1983 floods. Work must be done to ensure the water stays where it is supposed to, or next time the cost may not be reflected in just dollars.

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