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After 30 Years, Ground Broken for Flood-Control Canal

After decades of planning, officials Wednesday finally began construction of a flood-control canal in Louisiana.

Planned after the devastating flood of 1983, the Comite River Diversion Canal would redirect high water from the Comite and several bayous in northern East Baton Rouge Parish into the Mississippi River during an emergency.

The Advocate reports construction on the 12-mile (20-kilometer) project began Wednesday. Record floods in the same area two years ago brought renewed attention to the $450 million project, which was granted $343 million in federal funding this year.

Officials say this award coupled with already secured funding is enough to begin construction. Officials have been relocating utilities and making plans, but local, state and federal leaders have at last turned dirt signifying the beginning of the construction of the canal itself.

"This is one of the really good mornings that you look forward to for a long time," Gov. John Bel Edwards said. "Today is historic. It's a big deal," U.S. Rep. Garret Graves remarked.

Most authorities pointed out that the bipartisan effort exemplifies good government because it will save the grief — and the financial cost — of future flooding in the Amite River Basin.

They were frustrated it's taken so long, but grateful that decades later, they're finally seeing progress. "I think people can rest assured it's finally gonna happen," state Sen. Bodi White said.