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Energy & Environment

U.S. Army Corps: There’s ‘Misinformation’ About Houston’s High Risk Dams

People living on Houston’s west side braved rainstorms Wednesday night to learn if two dams can be trusted to hold back floodwaters.


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U.S. Army Corps' Richard Pannell led the community meeting
Dave Fehling
U.S. Army Corps’ Richard Pannell led the community meeting

Cars had to splash their way through ponding water outside a community center near the Addicks Reservoir and Dam on the north side of the Katy Freeway. As the rain grew harder, Steve Fitzgerald, the Harris County Flood Control chief engineer, told several dozen people who'd gathered inside he was keeping an eye on a big line of storms.

"I been watching the radar the whole time as well as y'all. There's more coming this evening," Fitzgerald told the crowd.

The Barker and Addicks Dams were built just after WW II to reduce flooding on Houston's west side
Dave Fehling
The Barker and Addicks Dams were built just after WW II to reduce flooding on Houston’s west side

It was a fitting night to be talking about flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was updating residents on a massive, $75 million dollar project to repair and upgrade two dams holding back water in the Addicks and the neighboring Barker Reservoirs.

They're among six most critically in need of repair in the nation and are considered "extremely high risk."

Resident Katy Emde had heard the reservoirs have previously never filled up.

"From what I've heard you're not able to use the full capacity of the dam because of voids or fear of collapse," Emde said during the meeting.

Richard Long, the dams' manager for the Army Corp, responded: "There was some misinformation that was put out. At no time were we at a situation where we were not able to use the full capacity of the reservoir. There was a time when we were concerned about using the full capacity. But never would we have released more water than the bayou could have handled. Unless we would have seen an emergency with the dam and that emergency did not occur."

Residents were told more development upstream means the reservoirs now fill up faster than in years past, but repairs should make for stronger, more reliable dams when the project is finished in about four years.