Around 25 years ago, Charles Glen Crocker realized that the footprint at the Barker Reservoir was larger than the area under the government control and ownership, hence placing the homeowners around the area at a risk for flooding. The reservoir was dry for most of the year – but a major rainstorm could lead to water reaching non-government land onto the houses of residents in the area. Charles warned everyone he thought that could help – from the county’s emergency management coordinator to the county judge and the county commissioners. He wanted to make sure that the county examined the situation closely and could save future homeowners from an unfortunate situation. He subsequently penned a letter as a warning to the officials. It was written on July 6, 1992 and warned of the impending destruction in case some action was taken. Despite the fact that he was qualified to make this assertion, his credentials were questioned and his warning ignored by the officials. More than two decades later, his words came true. In 2017, the flood pools in Harris counties and Fort Bend and swelled up and caused destruction in more than 30,000 properties.
Twenty five words on a public document that was neglected – and could have saved thousands of homeowners from losing their property. These documents had been avoided for the last 20 years. In 1997, the county had warned the officials in a statement “This subdivision is adjacent to the Barker Reservoir and is subject to extended controlled inundation under the management of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
In simple words, there was a possibility that the corps would make the choice to flood the subdivision in order to save Houston. If only the homeowners had seen this document – because this is exactly what happened during Hurricane Harvey.
When asked to comment about the ignored report and letter by Charles Glen Crocker, the Harris County flood control officials claimed that they were not able to find a copy of the report and were not familiar with the details. They claimed that it was going to be difficult to find a physical copy of the report at this point.
So without fail a massive lawsuit followed. The lawsuit was filed on September 15, 2017 by Christina Micu against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Christina’s own house was severely affected by the flood. She hadn’t chosen to get flood insurance as she was not warned about the possibility of a flood. Micu was not the only victim of this negligence. More than 720 houses in Canyon Gate were severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey because the Corps let the area submerged beyond the dam fill up as almost fifty inches of rain accumulated on the land area. The result was devastation for all the people living in the gated community, most of whom had to be evacuated via boat away from the deep flood water.
In Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, this lawsuit was filed. It was a class action on behalf of all who were affected by the flood owned property near both the Addicks and Barker dams. These two dams don’t have clearly allotted reservoirs and remain dry for most of the year. The lawsuit claimed that during Hurricane Harvey, the Corps intentionally let the flood pool accumulate up to a staggering 350,000 acre feet. This led to the destruction of thousands of homes in the Harris and Fort Bend counties and in Houston. Around 4,000 properties consisting of everything from apartment complexes, single-family homes and businesses were affected. The Harris and Fort Bend county houses more than 130,000 people, of which around 30,000 own property. All of these people and their property were deliberately left vulnerable to the destruction of the flood.
Due to the fact that most of the residents’ houses were not in a 100-year floodplain, most of the homeowners affected by the flood did not have flood insurance. The residents now demand that they be compensated for their losses and that the flood-management system must also be fixed. Many other subdivisions that were close to the Barker and Addicks reservoirs were also severely affected due to the floods. As the Corps of Engineers get sued over their choice to release water from the reservoirs and cause this devastation, the homeowners are concerned that the lawsuit is taking too long. In addition, since the residents are not part of the hundred year floodplain, these people might not quality for a buyout from the government. The homeowners believe that buying the properties and incorporating them as part of the reservoirs could be the solution and help save people from being affected in case of another flood or heavy rainfall. The situation extends not just to the people who were affected by Harvey, but has to do with saving the larger Houston metropolitan area from any such unfortunate situation in the future.
The homeowners affected by the flood believe that the monetary compensation is not sufficient in the long-run. They believe that the real answer is a solution that prevents stored water from coming onto non-government land every again. They demand that the government do everything possible in order to ensure the safety of the people living near the Barker and Addicks reservoirs, and that a one-time compensation for the devastation caused is not going to make a difference. The better way to ameliorate the situation, they believe, is to make sure the dams are stronger and that their storage is increased. This will not just protect the houses from any future unfortunate situation but also increase the value of the houses in the area.