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Federal Judge Rules Army Corps Liable For Flooding Homes In Addicks And Barker Reservoirs During Harvey

It’s one of two lawsuits filed by homeowners in the area after their homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

This aerial photo shows businesses and neighborhoods near Addicks Reservoir that flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

A federal judge has ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is liable for homes flooded inside the Addicks and Barker reservoirs during Hurricane Harvey.

Judge Charles F. Lettow’s ruling asserts the government effectively took homeowners’ property by allowing the reservoirs to fill up with water and denies the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“The government’s suggestion that this flooding is not a compensable taking because it was temporary and confined to a single flood event carries no water,” Lettow wrote in a 46 page ruling.

“The flooding that occurred was the direct result of calculated planning,” he added, concluding the Army Corps was aware that flooding would happen if a major storm like Harvey hit. 

It’s the first of two cases centered on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs to see a ruling. This case focuses on upstream homeowners whose houses were inside the reservoirs.

Homeowners who brought the suit against the federal government argued that the Army Corps knew this could happen to people living in the reservoirs.

“The government early on, when it first built the dams, could have bought enough property to cover what it knew those dams could back,” said Dan Charest, one of the attorneys who represented the homeowners. “If the government takes your property rights without your consent, they owe you compensation for it.”

Another case, before Judge Loren A. Smith, focuses on downstream homeowners who say they were flooded when the Corps decided to release water from the dams in fear they would fail. 

Both have the potential to set precedent for whether the government can be held liable for how it decides to manage flood control. 

The Corps did not immediately respond to Houston Public Media’s request for comment.

Katie Watkins and Matt Harab also contributed to this story.

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Davis Land

Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is Houston Public Media's senior news producer. He leads coverage for News 88.7's morning newscasts and coordinates between beat reporters, newscasters, and the Houston Matters team. Before joining Houston Public Media, Land produced for WBUR's newscast unit and Atlantic Public Media. His work has been heard on NPR's...

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