Cinco Municipal Utility District No. 1, also known as Cinco MUD No. 1, joined Fort Bend County and the Fort Bend County Drainage District in filing a federal lawsuit May 25 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its operation of the Barker Reservoir during Hurricane Harvey, according to a release from the MUD district.
The plaintiffs in the Fort Bend County lawsuit—collectively known as Fort Bend—allege that, although the Corps designed the Barker Reservoir to protect the City of Houston by storing floodwaters, it failed to acquire sufficient land to store the amount of water the reservoirs were designed to detain. Fort Bend County Commissioners voted earlier this week to file the lawsuit.
Cinco MUD No. 1 is a master MUD, meaning it owns and operates a water treatment plant for 11 MUDS and provides wholesale service to the individual districts across 245 acres in Fort Bend County.
“We made the decision to join in the lawsuit because we agree with the county’s assertion that the Corps does not have the legal authority to inundate property the Corps does not own in its operation of the Barker Reservoir,” Tim Lawrence, president of Cinco MUD No. 1, said in the release.
As stated in Fort Bend’s announcement of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages and want the suit to compel the Corps to operate the reservoir constitutionally. In its released statement, the MUD district estimated it experienced losses in excess of $1 million, in addition to lost water, sewer and tax revenues.
According to the release, Fort Bend County and the Drainage District lost more than $430,000 in 2017 property tax revenue due to property devaluations. That number is expected to triple in 2018, the release stated.
“The Plaintiffs allege that the reservoirs’ design and modifications, combined with the Corps’ standard operating procedures laid out in its Water Control Manual, made it inevitable that the limits of the Corps’ property would be exceeded, thereby flooding land for which the Corps had no property rights upstream of the Barker Reservoir, if the Reservoir reached near full capacity,” the release stated.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Corps knew of inherent risks of its operating procedures and the high possibility of litigation.
“As a result, the Corps’ unlawful policies caused extensive harm during Hurricane Harvey and continue to jeopardize the property rights, economic interests and welfare of Fort Bend County, the Fort Bend County Drainage District, Cinco MUD No. 1 and county residents,” the release stated.
The suit was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by Texas law firm AL Law Group in the U.S. Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.