Graves’ Determination Pays Off

At the Lily Bayou Control Structure Wednesday, Congressman Garret Graves was doing what he does best — speaking passionately about a cause he believes in, in this case the Comite Diversion Canal.
The scene was surreal. The day was blistering hot. The massive Lily Bayou structure, reminisent of the Panama Canal, sat there as it has for the past 10 years — patiently waiting to be used to relieve flooding in Central and down the Comite and Amite rivers.
Built at a cost of $32 million, it is the only part of the $400 million Comite Diversion Canal, which has been built, although the project was authorized by the Louisiana Legislature 30 years ago.
Graves spoke to those in the delegation with the same passion he did during lengthy meetings with President Trump in the White House, the Vice President, and six times with OMB director Mick Mulvany.
Trump was an instant ally, having come to Central immediately after the flood of August 2016.  He knew first hand how important this project is.  Pence too was onboard. He and Graves had spent six hours together flying back and forth for a visit to Louisiana, which gave the Congressman all the time he needed to make his case.
But Office of Management and Budget director Mulvaney was a tougher nut to crack. The President might be for the project and so might the Vice President, but the reality was that it still had to fit into the budget in competition with the needs and demands of 50 governors, 100 senators, and 435 representatives, all of whom have their own priorities.
It took Graves six meetings with Mulvaney.  It didn’t hurt that the two had served together in the House. But it wasn’t until Graves was named Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment — which placed him squarely in charge of the Army Corps of Engineers — that things began to change.
Mulvaney asked a friend’s advice on a matter involving the Corps of Engineers. The friend said, “You should call Garret Graves! He can help you with the Corps!” Mulvaney said, “I can’t! He’ll just talk about the Comite project again!”
Not long afterwards, it was over!  Mulvaney and the Trump administration were totally on board, and they committed all the money needed to complete the $400 million project. “They just got tired of hearing from me!” Graves laughed.
Of course, getting approval of such a large sum of money is never a one-man show. So many played important roles! Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, both from the Baton Rouge area, kept up the pressure. Local officials like Central Mayor Jr. Shelton went to Washington to testify.  Legislators such as Sen. Bodi White and Rep. Valarie Hodges constantly held hearings and raised the attention of the public, the media, and elected officials.
But two of the most pivotal have to be President Trump who had seen the need with his own eyes and Congressman Graves, who burned with passion over the issue.
Being at Lily Bayou was surreal, Central Mayor Pro-Tem Kim Fralick said, because you could feel that one day, the waters of the Comite will be surging through that structure saving homes and businesses in Central. Fralick said, “It will bring peace of mind to the vast majority of our citizens!”

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!