A group of Harris County homeowners and businesses sued the federal government on Tuesday due to the flood. The claim is that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knowingly condemned their properties by releasing water from the Barker and Addicks reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey.
You may have questions like: Do the property owners directly affected have the right to be compensated for the harm? According to the U.S. Supreme Court in a flooding case, the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment is “designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.” Arkansas Fish & Game Commission v. United States, 568 U.S. 23, 31 (2012).
When the dams were opened at or near a maximum release rate, several hundred homes that were dry and not yet directly impacted by the storm sustained flooding damage.
When the authorities made a choice to flood one area to save another, it is their legal responsibility to compensate the landowner for the taking.
The Texas Constitution provides that “[n]o person’s property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed for or applied to public use without adequate compensation being made, unless by the consent of such person.” Tex. Const. art. I, § 17. The three part test for identifying a constitutional taking is: (1) the state intentionally performed certain acts; (2) resulting in a taking of property; (3) for public use. Steele v. City of Houston, 603 S.W.2d 786, 791 (Tex. 1980).
To establish a takings claim, the claimant must show that a governmental unit acted intentionally to take or damage property for public use. State v. Holland, 221 S.W.3d at 643. A person who consents to the governmental action cannot validly assert a takings claim. Kirby Lake Dev., Ltd. v. Clear Lake City Water Auth., 320 S.W.3d 829, 844 (Tex. 2010).
Lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court seeking to hold government agencies liable for flooding from the controlled releases. We believe that homeowners and business owners have been harmed because of the release.
The Addicks and Barker Reservoirs on Houston’s west side were designed to store and gently release accumulated water into Buffalo Bayou to help prevent catastrophic flooding to downstream neighborhoods, Houston’s downtown, and the Houston ship channel. But during Hurricane Harvey, as both reservoirs reached their capacities, the Army Corps of Engineers intentionally decided to open the flood gates, intentionally flooding homes and businesses downstream from the dams in the Buffalo Bayou watershed in order to prevent destruction in other areas.
If you or a family member were impacted by the flooding caused by the release of water from the dam, then please feel free to contact our attorneys if you have any questions.