The rains came and would not stop, and rising water struck particularly hard in flooded suburban neighborhoods along the Amite River near Baton Rouge.
That was in 1983. Then, it happened with even more severe flooding in 2016, with a generation’s worth of additional development and new subdivisions thrown into the mix.
A serious federal commitment to flood control projects, including the diversion of water from the Amite/Comite system to the Mississippi River, is long overdue.
But that is not the only flood control project that's waited for generations. Studied since 1971, a new package of flood control funding will pay for a levee and pump stations protecting more than 120,000 residents in the river parishes.
At $760 million, the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Risk Reduction Project will run roughly parallel to Interstate 10 from the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish to the Hope Canal in St. John. It is also a belated response to a disaster when Hurricane Isaac in 2012 flooded the LaPlace area.
The centerpiece of the program for the Baton Rouge area includes $343 million in long-promised federal funds for the Comite River Diversion Canal. That would siphon high waters out of the Comite and pump them over the Mississippi levee north of Baton Rouge.
All told, officials said, $1.4 billion will be shaken loose for flood control and hurricane protection in the region.
We congratulate all the leaders in Congress and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration for their bipartisan commitment to a resolution to these recurring problems.
But they are also getting a lot of work to do in the years ahead. Breaking the appropriations logjam is significant, but the major projects in the package are the work of years.
As just one example, among the commitments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was help from the state transportation department to do road work associated with the Comite canal.
It is also vital that Louisiana voters, through tax millages, continue to support construction and long-term maintenance of such big projects. In the case of the Comite, a specific local tax has been paid for years in the Amite basin for the project, so the Corps cannot say that Louisiana has shirked its responsibility for supporting the work.
Louisiana is not unique in having floods but the severity of the recent incidents and the consequent federal costs of disaster relief make it a wise commitment of taxpayer dollars for these projects.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, previously headed the state's coastal protection efforts and now represents many of the areas flooded in 2016. He said flood control and risk management pay off, at least three times the cost of work put into prevention.
This is way more than an ounce of prevention. Completion of these projects will represent long-term savings.
Congratulations to all who worked on these new federal commitments.