"Because of the way the Missisippi River flows, there are only five possibilities that the Coast Guard will allow the DOTD to build."
U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy spoke with the Iberville Parish Chamber of Commerce Wednesday afternoon at Nottoway Plantation to discuss, among other things, the Comite River Diversion Project receiving full funding, the economy, health care, and the potential for a new bridge in Plaquemine.
The Comite River Diversion Canal has been a long time coming for the greater Baton Rouge area. The project was initially proposed in the '70s but never got sufficient funding. In 2003 initial digging began near Lilly Bayou, but it wasn't until the Great Flood of 2016 and hurricanes hitting Texas and Puerto Rico that the idea of getting the Canal fully funded took precedent.
"The Comite wouldn't have benefited the entire area that flooded," Sen. Cassidy said. "But it could benefit substantially some that do. Wherever the Comite is or the upper part of the Amite where the Comite drains into will all benefit from this. It's not the only solution but it is part of the solution. We know places that have never flooded, ever flooded in that time and I think those will be some of the areas that benefit."
Ground was broken Wednesday for the Comite River Diversion Canal. It is expected that construction for the 12-mile long canal will begin in August of this year and should be finished in 2021.
"It was a battle in Washington to secure the $343 million to fully fund this project," said Sen. Cassidy. "It's been a decades-long process to begin construction, but we will keep working until it is completed. The Comite River Diversion is invaluable to protect Baton Rouge area families from flooding in future storms."
Next, in March, the Louisiana department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) began exploring the possibility of adding new bridges in the Baton Rouge area. Because of the way the Missisippi River flows, there are only five possibilities that the Coast Guard will allow the DOTD to build. They are Brusly to Baton Rouge, Addis to Baton Rouge, South Plaquemine to St. Gabriel, Addis to St. Gabriel, or Plaquemine to St. Gabriel.
"Of all the parishes, Iberville is the only one that doesn't have a bridge," Sen. Cassidy said. "So, I totally get that. And it will certainly spur economic development."
Sen. Cassidy spoke to the Chamber for approximately half an hour before enjoying lunch and mingling with participants.
Wednesday was a busy day for Sen. Cassidy. Cassidy attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Comite River Diversion in Zachary before touring the IBM Baton Rouge Headquarters.
"We want our kids to have the same opportunity in the new economy as children in any other part of our country," Sen. Cassidy told the Post South. "This is part of bringing these sorts of jobs, this vision if you will, of the kind of job that you can't have to our community."
Sen. Cassidy also discussed the success of a piece of legislature he introduced called the Know the Lowest Price Act. The Act increases healthcare transparency by preventing pharmacies from using what is known as a "gag clause." Gag clauses allowed pharmacists to hide prices of medications and prevented them from telling consumers if their prescription would cost less paying out of pocket than using their insurance plan.
"The president now signed it (Know the Lowest Price Act) into law and gag clauses are now illegal," Sen. Cassidy said.
After speaking to the Iberville Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Cassidy spoke to the Louisiana State Legislature late Wednesday afternoon.