Property owners upstream reservoirs entitled to compensation from Hurricane Harvey flooding, judge rules

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HOUSTON — A federal court has ruled that homeowners and business owners who have property upstream of the Addicks and Barker dams in Houston should be compensated by the federal government for the flooding that happened during Hurricane Harvey.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims found that the Army Corps of Engineers built, maintained and operated the Addicks and Barker dams to store excess stormwater on private property.

But over several decades, thousands of homes were built within the boundaries of the typically dry Addicks and Barker reservoirs, which the Army Corps designed to hold water on private land during the most extreme rainstorms.

“The government intentionally flooded these private homes and businesses to save downtown Houston,” said attorney Daniel Charest of Burns Charest, co-lead class counsel for the property owners. “As the court noted, the government was responsible for creating an emergency, and these citizens were the innocent victims of those calculated decisions. We look forward to pushing the case through the damages phase and achieving justice for the upstream flood victims.”

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Under the “takings” clause of the Fifth Amendment, “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation, ruled Judge Charles F. Lettow in a Dec. 17 decision in Washington, D.C.

The ruling means upstream property owners are eligible to seek certification as a class and move the case to trial to determine damages.

The trial concerned 13 property owners who were chosen as test cases, and who alleged that the Army Corps knew the capacity of the reservoirs behind the massive dams would inundate about 10,000 homes and businesses.

Click here to read more about the lawsuit.