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Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Aerial of the Comite Diversion Canal. Looking west. Mississippi River at top.

Advocate file photo by BILL FEIG < p>

Gov. John Bel Edwards has requested additional federal money for the historic flood of 2016. One item of the request was $125 million to complete the Comite River Diversion Canal Project. The only way this project will be completed is to seek these funds directly from the federal government. The Amite River Basin Commission has been collecting local property taxes since 2001 for the acquisition of land for the project. We are fulfilling our commitment to the project by acquiring nearly half of the lands needed for it. The federal government, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is responsible for the actual construction of the canal. There has been no significant construction on the canal by the Corps in over 10 years. The present federal funding through the U.S Army Corps of Engineers is simply broken.

The Louisiana legislative auditor recently issued a report concerning the reasons for the delay in the project. Its auditor found  that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has failed to provide "sufficient and consistent funding." The ARBC and LADOTD have already spent over $38 million, and the Corps has spent over $75 million. Right now, there are no guarantees that the federal government will live up to its commitment to fund this project.

We need the public's help to get this project completed. Please contact U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, U.S. Reps. Garret Graves and Cedric Richmond, and the White House to urge support for Edwards' effort to secure the funds for this project. Without their support, this project may never be completed. It is irresponsible to spend over $113 million in taxpayer's money and not finish the work.

Col. Ben Babin

president, ARBC

Baton Rouge