Fort Bend County Commissioners Voted Tuesday to Authorize a Lawsuit Against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Operation of the Barker Reservoir
Fort Bend County Drainage District joins Fort Bend County as Plaintiffs in a filing expected later this week
Houston, Texas — Fort Bend County Commissioners voted during their regular meeting Tuesday afternoon to approve a lawsuit that seeks a declaratory judgement from a Federal District Judge regarding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (“Corps”) operation of the Barker Reservoir. The County and the Fort Bend County Drainage District believe the Corps does not have the legal authority to inundate property the Corps does not own in its operation of the Barker Reservoir.
Together with Fort Bend County Drainage District (together “Fort Bend”), Fort Bend will allege that the Corps knowingly operated the Barker Reservoir, located on the west side of Houston, in a manner that unlawfully flooded land the Corps did not own. The Plaintiffs are seeking to compel the Corps to operate the Barker Reservoir legally and constitutionally, and are not seeking monetary damages.
According to the County, the Corps designed and constructed the Barker Reservoir to protect the City of Houston from flood damages by detaining and storing floodwaters in the Addicks & Barker Reservoirs. But, the Corps failed to acquire sufficient land to store the amount of water the Reservoirs were designed to detain. In its complaint, Fort Bend will 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.
According to the Corps’ own analysis, the Corps knew about the inherent risks of its operating procedures, and knew that the possibility of litigation based on its inaction was high. 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 and county residents.
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the inaction of the Corps, especially intentionally using land upstream it did not own to store water, was unlawful. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction that would prevent further impounding of floodwater on land it doesn’t own upstream of the Barker Reservoir.
“The County is filing suit seeking to require the Corps to follow federal law and its own rules in its operation of the Reservoir,” said Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert.
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.
About Fort Bend County
Fort Bend County is located in Southeast Texas and is adjacent to Harris County. Fort Bend County, founded in 1837, has grown to be the tenth-most populous county in Texas. Fort Bend County owns property which was affected by overflow from the Hurricane Harvey floodwater that the government-owned lands within the Barker Reservoir was unable to detain.
About Fort Bend County Drainage District
The primary mission of the Fort Bend County Drainage District (FBCDD) is to maintain the drainage channels, where the District has easements, in their existing flow conditions. This is accomplished through appropriate structural repairs and vegetation control. The District also reviews plats and drainage plans of new development to be approved by Commissioners Court to assure the elimination of an adverse drainage impact on current and future residents. FBCDD owns real and personal property which was affected by overflow from the Hurricane Harvey floodwater that the government-owned lands within the Reservoirs were unable to detain.
About AL Law Group, PLLC
AL Law Group, PLLC is a state and nationally recognized litigation and administrative law firm with offices in Houston and Austin, Texas. Since its formation in 2010, Members Keith Lapeze and David Tuckfield have represented clients throughout Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the entire country in regulatory proceedings, business disputes, commercial litigation, and more.