Land acquired for Comite River canal project

A 66-acre tract along U.S. 61 has been acquired for the long-awaited Comite River Diversion Canal project.

The Amite River Basin Commission, which was set up to maintain and operate the canal, bought the land from three property owners for nearly $1.45 million in a deal that was filed Wednesday with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office.

Larry Bankston, an attorney for the commission, said the land is across from the Lilly Bayou Control Structure, between Baker and Zachary.

“This is the largest and most expensive piece of property along the canal,” Bankston said.

The commission is wrapping up Phase 1 of the Comite River Diversion Canal project by purchasing property from landowners who are willing to sell. There are 17 individual landowners who want to sell their property for the canal; Bankston said two more deals will be finalized in the next few weeks.

“There will probably be another 100 acres or more that we purchase,” Bankston said.

The Comite River Diversion Canal project will lower flooding risks in the Comite River Basin by diverting floodwater from the Amite and Comite rivers to the Mississippi River. The project has been under discussion since the early 1990s.

The Comite River Basin covers portions of East Baton Rouge, Livingston, Ascension and East Feliciana parishes as well as Wilkinson and Amite counties in Mississippi.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has indicated it might have the final right of way lines for the diversion canal by the end of the year. That would clear the way for the Amite River Basin Commission and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to expropriate land for the canal.

“The canal could move a little bit,” Bankston said. “The key thing that has to be done is the design work for bridges and railroad bridges. Once you’ve done those, it helps to define exactly where the canal will go.”