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Contractors discuss work on relocating a petroleum pipeline Thursday, July 18, 2019, along U.S. 61 southeast of Port Hudson. The pipeline is being relocated to make way for the future Comite River Diversion Canal.

Since the Comite Diversion Canal has been 40 years coming, a last-minute snarl from Kansas City Southern Railway is frustrating the public. The newest dispute involves maintenance of a new and higher railroad bridge over the canal.

The railroad is quarreling with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over how much the government will pay to maintain the structure.

Given that this project has been so long in development, and that area citizens have been paying into a fund for it through property taxes for decades, such a delay is not understandable.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, said the problem should be resolved. But he did not, speaking to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, rule out seizing the railroad property through eminent domain.

The Corps of Engineers is supposed to pay for construction of the new bridges over U.S. 61 for vehicles and for trains. What’s at issue is who will pay how much for the long-term maintenance of the new bridge.

“The project proposal has been out there for decades. The fact that they’re talking about putting a bridge there is a surprise to no one, absolutely no one,” Graves said. “I do want to be clear that they are impeding the project today.”

This foot-dragging is ridiculous.

The Comite diversion canal would allow flood waters in the Comite/Amite river basin to be pumped to the Mississippi River in times of high water. Many residents of East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes argued that far fewer buildings would have been flooded in August 2016 had the Comite River Diversion Canal been complete.

Graves has spearheaded the funding battle in Congress, with support from the Louisiana delegation and state government. As much as anyone, he has a right to be frustrated with any further delays.

As Graves pointed out Monday, none of the construction issues has been a secret. Congress finally broke the funding logjam with $343 million to build the 12-mile canal; costly utility relocation and new bridges are part of the reasons that funding has been held up.

Groundbreaking was in April.

We urge all parties to get a move on. This project has been stalled too many times already.