Federal Judge Rules Army Corps Of Engineers Responsible For Hurricane Harvey Damages

The Army Corps opened the dams at Addicks and Barker reservoirs to prevent more flooding in downtown Houston. But that flooded thousands of homes in nearby neighborhoods.

By Rhonda FanningDecember 18, 2019 11:54 am,

Houston-area homeowners and business owners scored a win Tuesday after a U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for losses they incurred after Hurricane Harvey.

Gabrielle Banks covers federal courts for the Houston Chronicle. She says dams built decades ago, at Addicks and Barker reservoirs, didn’t prevent flooding in some of Houston’s outlying neighborhoods. In fact, the Corps of Engineers decided to open those dams to prevent flooding further downstream in downtown Houston. Banks says this recent lawsuit is one of two related to Harvey flooding.

“[It] relates to the people upstream of those two dams,” she says.” They argued successfully that the flooding on their land was preventable and foreseeable, and that the Army Corps should not have allowed water to be detained on their property.”

She says they want damages if the government is going to continue to borrow their land for food control. This recent court decision means that, most likely, they’ll get money to compensate for the damages.

Banks says the government argued a strong case against taking responsibility, calling Hurricane Harvey a “once- in-
a-lifetime, unprecedented event.”

The second lawsuit, which is pending, involves homeowners downstream of the dams.

Banks says these lawsuits are a “cautionary tale” of allowing development in a flood plain.

“If you look back at the history, there were a series of moments and documents that warned officials that this was coming, that this was dangerous, that this needed to be prevented,” Banks says. “And one by one, over decades, decisions were made to allow development to happen.”


Written by Caroline Covington.