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This aerial photo shows businesses and neighborhoods near Addicks Reservoir that flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
A federal judge has ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is liable for homes flooded inside the Addicks and Barker reservoirs during Hurricane Harvey.
Judge Charles F. Lettow’s ruling asserts the government effectively took homeowners’ property by allowing the reservoirs to fill up with water and denies the government’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“The government’s suggestion that this flooding is not a compensable taking because it was temporary and confined to a single flood event carries no water,” Lettow wrote in a 46 page ruling.
“The flooding that occurred was the direct result of calculated planning,” he added, concluding the Army Corps was aware that flooding would happen if a major storm like Harvey hit.
It’s the first of two cases centered on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs to see a ruling. This case focuses on upstream homeowners whose houses were inside the reservoirs. Another case, before Judge Loren A. Smith, focuses on downstream homeowners who say they were flooded when the Corps decided to release water from the dams in fear they would fail.
Both have the potential to set precedent for whether the government can be held liable for how it decides to manage flood control.
The Corps did not immediately respond to Houston Public Media’s request for comment.
Katie Watkins also contributed to this story.