It seems like the pathway to construction for the Grand Parkway is forever paved with obstacles. This one is in the form of a lawsuit from the Sierra Club for Segment E against the Army Corps of Engineers and a number of other government bodies.
Segment E is a 15 mile section cutting through the Katy Prairie between US 290 and I-10. Evelyn Merz is with the Sierra Club. She says it was only after the Army Corps issued the permit allowing Segment E to go ahead that the reason for this lawsuit came to light.
"Well, the corps of engineers has designated the level the classified both addicks and barker as their safety needs as urgent and compelling. The corps did not make its determination of the issues of dam safety or the changes in operation of the dam until after that Environmental Impact Statement was prepared and released."
The Addicks and Barker dams protect key areas of Harris County from flooding from the Buffalo Bayou. The Environmental Impact Study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration highlighted a possible problem with run-off to the Addicks and Barker dams on this section of the Parkway.
Interestingly, Merz says this was something that the Army Corps of Engineers flagged back in 2009 when gaps were found in the tunnels that control flow to the Buffalo Bayou. They’ve since worked on repairing those gaps but the Sierra Club still feels there’s an issue.
"What we would like to accomplish in this is to have an acknowledgement by the corps and a public discussion of what is actually needed to protect the dam. What type of an operating plan and what type of provisions do we need to make to handle the run-off from development and that could be satisfied from a true open EIS being prepared."
Under the Freedom of Information Act Merz says they’ve requested documents and emails from the Army Corps. It seems that when issuing the wetlands permit for Segment E Merz believes there were some definite concerns raised by people within the corps about run-off and impact on the dam.
The Army Corps can’t comment as long as this lawsuit is pending and neither can the Texas Department of Transportation who are also named in the suit and responsible for building the Grand Parkway. The Sierra Club feels it has a strong case though and the lawsuit is expected to go to court in the coming months.