UPDATED: Fort Bend County to file lawsuit against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for operation of Barker Reservoir during Harvey

The Barker Reservoir empties into Buffalo Bayou in West Houston.

The Barker Reservoir empties into Buffalo Bayou in West Houston.

 CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to include comments from Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert regarding why homes in neighborhoods upstream from the Barker Reservoir, including Canyon Gate and Cinco Ranch, flooded during Hurricane Harvey. 

Fort Bend County Commissioners voted during a regularly scheduled meeting May 22 to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in regard to its operation of the Barker Reservoir during Hurricane Harvey last August.

During Harvey, the Corps' opened floodgates in an effort to prevent the reservoirs from failing which created much of the flooding downstream of Buffalo Bayou, according to Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert. However, neighborhoods upstream from the reservoir, such as Canyon Gate, Kelliwood, Cinco Ranch and other areas along Mason Road that flooded only flooded because the Corps allowed water to back up out of the property that it owned and stored that water on private property, Hebert said.

"These properties behind the [Barker] Reservoir flooded solely because the Corps chose to store water on private property rather than release it downstream or take any other measures that it reasonably could have taken," Hebert said. "They did not consider the risk to those property owners behind the reservoir."

The Fort Bend Drainage District is also involved in the case. Both the drainage district and Commissioners Court believe the Corps does not have legal authority to inundate property owned by the county, according to a release from a new information center for Hebert's office.

"The plaintiffs are seeking to compel the Corps to operate the Barker Reservoir legally and constitutionally, and are not seeking monetary damages," the release stated.

The Barker and Addicks reservoirs were designed and constructed in the 1940s to protect the city of Houston from flood damages by detaining and storing floodwaters.

However, the county believes the Corps failed to acquire sufficient land to store the amount of water the reservoirs were designed to detain, according to the release. In its complaint, Fort Bend County will allege that the reservoirs’ design and modifications, along with the Corps’ standard operating procedures, made it inevitable that the limits of the Corps’ property would be exceeded—thereby flooding land for which it had no property rights upstream of the Barker Reservoir—if the reservoir were to reach near full capacity.

According to the release, the suit will be filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by Texas law firm AL Law Group in the United States Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

“The county is filing suit seeking to require the Corps to follow federal law and its own rules in its operation of the reservoir,” Hebert in the release.

Hebert said he expects the lawsuit to be filed sometime this week and estimates it could cost upwards of $100,000. The county will pay for the suit using money from its general operation funds.

"If we lose and we appeal it could cost even more than that but it is the right thing to do," Hebert said. "3,100 families in Fort Bend County were unnecessary damaged by the actions of the Corps, we have the right to go to court. We are not advocating a solution, that is the Corps’ job. We are just trying to get the federal courts to tell them, 'No more you cannot do this again.' That is what we are looking for and we think that is a valuable ruling."


MOST RECENT

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently backed a movement calling for the reopening of winery and distillery tasting rooms and brewery and brewpub taprooms. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Agriculture Commissioner joins voices calling for reopening of tasting rooms, taprooms

In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said demand from distilleries and breweries provides an important revenue stream to the state's farmers.

State Fare Kitchen & Bar will open its second Houston-area location in Sugar Land on July 8. (Courtesy George Paez, State Fare)
State Fare Kitchen & Bar to open Sugar Land Town Square location July 8

State Fare Kitchen & Bar will serve lunch and dinner menus daily, plus weekday happy hour, weekend brunch and Friday and Saturday late-night options.

vote
Fort Bend County official: Early voters 'turning out in record numbers’ for July 14 primary runoff

2020 primary runoff voter turnout totaled 5.66% for the first week of early voting when including in-person and mail-in ballots.

Sugar Land 95 activist Reginald Moore dies at 60

Moore may be best known for his work to raise awareness about the Texas prison system's convict-leasing system, which provided prisoners to plantation owners who labored on farms and in other industries.

The First Street Foundation's dataset includes a forecast models that anticipate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. (Screenshot via First Street Foundation)
Analysis: FEMA may be undercounting national total flood risk by as much as 70%

The new dataset includes an interactive Flood Factor dashboard that anyone can use to assess the risk of flooding over a 30-year period for any address.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Fort Bend County. (Community Impact staff)
With 131 new coronavirus cases reported July 2, Fort Bend County nears 4,000th case

Heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Fort Bend County has seen a total of 3,999 coronavirus cases.

Houston fireworks display
Here’s how to celebrate Fourth of July across the Greater Houston area

Several Houston-area cities are still planning fireworks shows with drive-in or virtual components this Fourth of July.

Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre shared survey results and provided an update on the district's planning efforts for next school year during a virtual town hall July 1. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend ISD shares survey results, latest plans for 2020-21 school year during July 1 town hall

Of the 18,000 parents who responded to a Fort Bend ISD survey, 43% said they were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable sending their children back to school for the 2020-21 school year.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott: Texans must wear masks in public starting July 3

"COVID-19 is not going away," Gov. Abbott said. "In fact, it is getting worse."

The Kemah Boardwalk will be open Fourth of July weekend. (Courtesy Kemah Boardwalk)
3 Houston-area amusement properties will be open Fourth of July weekend

The Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier and Downtown Aquarium Houston are offering a joint weekend adventure pass for $29.99.

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments. (Source: Matt Frankel/Community Impact Newspaper)
'Refinancing isn't free:' How to navigate refinancing a mortgage

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments.

Episcopal Health Foundation
Survey: Texans support emphasis on improving economy, safety, pollution to address overall health

“COVID-19 is clearly showing what Texans already know: the state needs to address underlying, non-medical conditions that have a dramatic impact on their health,” Episcopal Health Foundation President and CEO Elena Marks said.