They Said Winning Was Impossible. They Were Wrong.

The Addicks and Barker Flood-Control Project is located in western Harris County. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to reduce flooding risks through downtown Houston, Addicks and Barker are still operated and maintained by Army Corps. When the Army Corps originally built Addicks and Barker, it purchased only about half of the land needed to safely store the floodwaters held back and controlled by the dams. The Army Corps purchased inadequate land because it believed doing so would save the government money. Later, county authorities permitted developers to build residential neighborhoods on the privately owned land that lies within the reservoirs’ respective flood pools.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought on significant rainfall throughout the entire city of Houston. The Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, per their design and purpose, held back water to protect the City of Houston. However, court documents show that the Army Corps used over 7,000 acres of private land during and after Harvey to store the impounded floodwater. Thus, the neighborhoods upstream of the dams were sacrificed to prevent downstream flooding. The Army Corps’ decision to use this private land resulted in extensive damage to thousands of homes and businesses upstream of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs.

Addicks and Barker Reservoir Map | Williams Hart & Boundas Law Firm
Alma Tavares

After Harvey had passed and the flood waters had receded, thousands of Upstream residents and business owners along the Addicks and Barker reservoirs demanded answers. The Army Corps refused to take responsibility and instead, forced the Upstream residents to file lawsuits to protect and enforce their Fifth Amendment rights to just compensation. We are honored to represent over 1,400 Upstream families and businesses.

A hard-fought courtroom battle led to a historic decision. In a landmark order issued December 17, 2019, the government was ruled liable under the Fifth Amendment for the intentional flooding of Upstream homes and businesses.

The Facts at a Glance

The Government Caused the Flooding.

Throughout the liability trial the government relentlessly argued that Harvey’s rainfall was the cause of all flooding and tried to blame property owners for buying homes in a “flood prone” area. The Judge rejected these arguments and held that the flooding was the “direct, natural, or probable result” of the government’s activity.

The Flooding Was Intentional.

The Judge agreed that, “the government had made a calculated decision to allow for flooding these lands years before Harvey, when it designed, modified, and maintained the dams in such a way that would flood private properties during severe storms.“

The Government Benefited from the Taking.

In the case of Addicks and Barker, “the government received a notable benefit at the expense of the upstream private property owners…the government protected downstream properties from an estimated $7 billion in losses during Harvey…while concurrently causing upstream properties to suffer from severe flooding.”