Nearly 313 acres purchased for Comite River Diversion Canal land mitigation

The Amite River Basin Commission purchased nearly 313 acres of land last week in the McHugh Swamp area to be used as mitigation for construction of the Comite River Diversion Canal.

The Amite River Basin Drainage and Water Conservation District, represented by Don Thompson, paid roughly $1.5 million to Troyland LLC, represented by Troy Furr, for approximately 312.8 acres, according to sales documents filed Friday.

Dietmar Rietschier, executive director of the Amite River Basin Commission, says the land will be used to mitigate work done on the canal in the next few years.

The 313 acres and other land purchased by the commission in recent years will offset unavoidable wetlands impact by the project. The land used for mitigation will be preserved and will not be used for development.

The Comite River Diversion Canal is a long-proposed canal running between Baker and Zachary that will connect the Comite and Mississippi rivers. The canal will supposedly divert flood water into the Mississippi River during heavy rains.

According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the McHugh Swamp is 3,343 acres and straddles both flanks of the diversion canal. It is mostly forested and undeveloped because of its low elevation and because it’s prone to standing water.

“Since the McHugh Swamp straddles the diversion alignment, some of it will need to be acquired for project construction,” the report states.

The commission has been working on the project since 2001, even though the canal has been in the works for nearly three decades, and collects a 3-mill property tax from East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes.

Rietschier says the project has been continuously beset by governmental delays and inefficiencies. He calls it an “agonizing slow project.”

—Ryan Broussard

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