Hearing set for lawsuit regarding flooding of upstream properties of Addicks, Barker reservoirs during Hurricane Harvey

(Designed by Jose Dennis/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Designed by Jose Dennis/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Designed by Jose Dennis/Community Impact Newspaper)

Although the coronavirus and related stay-at-home orders have postponed many legal procedures, one lawsuit that affects the Katy and Cy-Fair areas will remain on schedule for now.

On April 28, Senior Judge Charles Lettow of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims will host a hearing by phone regarding litigation about properties upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs that flooded during Hurricane Harvey due to the Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District’s operations of the reservoirs, according to a press release from the team of lawyers representing the property owners.

Before the coronavirus, the attorneys were going to present their arguments in Washington, D.C., per the release.

During the April 28 hearing, the U.S. Department of Justice defense team representing the Corps and the team of lawyers representing the property owners will present their arguments regarding the scope of the government’s permanent flowage easement to help determine how much money property owners are entitled to.

In this lawsuit, a permanent flowage easement refers to the land the Corps used to store inundated water from Hurricane Harvey on private property without compensation, and it refers to the government's right to use the property again, said Mary Conner, who is part of the team of lawyers representing the property owners, in an email interview.


The word "permanent" indicates the Corps will flood the private properties again if the entity does not make any changes to its operations, the team said in a January town hall meeting.

Also at the January town hall meeting, the team of lawyers representing the property owners explained the upstream property litigation has two phases.

The first phase involved determining whether the Corps’ actions were liable and whether the upstream property owners were eligible to receive compensation, the team said.

Lettow issued an opinion and order in December, concluding the actions were liable and the property owners were eligible for compensation.

The second phase will determine damages, the team said at the meeting. The April 28 hearing will help the litigation move forward toward that phase, said Daniel H. Charest, who is part of the team of lawyers representing the property owners, in an email interview.

“There are different aspects to an easement that need to be established to determine its effect on property,” Charest said. “When we better understand the scope of the easement (which is the purpose of the [April 28 hearing], we can turn fully to the just compensation (i.e., damages) phase.”

Both the defense and the property owners’ lawyers have filed briefs on the subject in preparation for the April 28 hearing, according to the release, and Lettow is likely to issue a written order after the April 28 hearing.

A November trial date was tentatively set for the compensation phase, Charest said. Whether the trial date will be changed has yet to be determined, he added.

Additionally, his team has not yet moved the lawsuit for class certification, Charest said. All existing and new upstream property cases filed have been put on hold pending the complaint that Charest and Conner’s team filed in 2017.

Receiving compensation—which could range from $1 billion-$5 billion divvied out among the thousands of property owners who join the class-action lawsuit—will not come immediately for property owners, the team representing the property owners said at the January town hall meeting. After Letter issues an opinion and order about the damages, the government will likely appeal the judge’s decisions.

To receive compensation, however, property owners upstream of the reservoirs must join the lawsuit. They have until August 2023 to sign up. More information is available here.
By Jen Para
Jen joined Community Impact Newspaper in fall 2018 as the editor of the Katy edition. She covers education, transportation, local government, business and development in the Katy area.


MOST RECENT

Houston City Hall in rainbow lighting
Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce celebrates five years of service

The organization is open to all and serves members throughout the Greater Houston area.

Fort Bend County residents will be notified via email, text message or phone call with information about their COVID-19 vaccine appointment. (Courtesy Pexels)
Fort Bend County announces new COVID-19 vaccination system

More Fort Bend County residents than before can now sign up and be placed on a waitlist for a COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the county's new registration system.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Fort Bend County. (Community Impact staff)
Fort Bend County surpasses 50,000 coronavirus cases; testing slowed during winter storm

Fort Bend County Health & Human Services has recorded 1,512 new coronavirus cases since the Feb. 15 winter storm that resulted in days of freezing temperatures and widespread power outages.

The new Fort Bend Epicenter multipurpose facility could be used as a spot for trade shows and sporting events, could act as a large-scale shelter for county residents in an emergency and more. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Large multipurpose complex coming to Fort Bend County; Sugar Land to widen University Blvd. and more top Houston-area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Houston area.

Hank's Crab Shack gets and sells several hundred pounds of crawfish daily, especially during the peak of crawfish season. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
New Orleans-style restaurant Hank's Crab Shack puts 'a lot of love into the food,' owner said

At Hank’s Crab Shack, it is not uncommon for natives of New Orleans to walk in skeptical and leave with their heads spinning and stomachs full, restaurant owner Akina Robinson said.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather. (Community Impact staff)
Q&A: Greater Houston Builders Association President Keith Luechtefeld discusses power, plumbing, frozen pipes after Winter Storm Uri

Keith Luechtefeld spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about some of the short-term and long-term repercussions of the storm as well as some of the reasons why so many homes saw burst pipes during the freezing weather.

After the Feb. 20 fire, the building was declared a total loss. (Courtesy Jason Carlisle)
Midway BBQ management looks to future after destructive fire

After the Feb. 20 fire, the building was declared a total loss.

Winter Storm Uri led to closures across the Greater Houston area during the third week of February. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
‘It’s been a rough year for us’: Expert explains economic effects of winter storm, ongoing pandemic in Houston region

“It's been a rough year for us economically; it's been a rough year for us public health wise. It's just been a rough year for us psychologically—first the coronavirus and then the freeze," said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research with the Greater Houston Partnership.

Katy city officials plan to rebuild the bridge over Cane Island Creek along the First Street extension for drainage purposes as part of a project to increase mobility in the area. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
Upcoming Katy transportation projects focus on increasing mobility to match continued growth

Katy city officials plan to rebuild the bridge over Cane Island Creek along the First Street extension for drainage purposes as part of a project to increase mobility in the area.

Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa works to make luxury spa services accessible for the general public. (Courtesy Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa)
Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa coming to Fulshear

Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, a 475-plus-unit massage and facial spa franchise, will open March 5 at 6230 FM 1463, Ste. 650, Fulshear.