Suing the Army Corps for Reservoir Releases; A City App for Debris Removal; 30 Years of the GRB

Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


14 Comment

  • Re: Lawsuit Says Army Corps of Engineers Should Compensate Homeowners for Flooding from Reservoirs

    Hell no. Anyone who buys immediately below a dam should know that they aren’t safe from flooding … Let’s start taking responsibility for our own stupidity, people.

  • An open letter on why Amazon should bring their new HQ to Houston….oh, thanks I needed a good laugh this morning.

  • @WR Somewhat ignorant comment. Those dams were specifically built to protect the properties along Buffalo Bayou and ensure it *almost* never flooded. In 70 years they had NEVER filled up and required full open releases. Hindsight is always perfect and I realize that it appears foolish to have ever bought there now, but keep in mind that historically the vast majority of those homes affected had never been seriously at risk of flooding. Took a biblical flood to finally do them in. Many other parts of town were considered much riskier areas to live. The areas you are describing contain some of the most successful school districts in the heart of Houston’s economically diverse west side along arguably the most beautifully maintained greenbelt in town. There are towns and cities all over the world that have been established immediately below a dam. It’s the reason we build dams. To allow such areas to be reasonably developed. There are only so many hilltops in the world…

  • This “I didn’t buy flood insurance because I wasn’t in the 100 yr floodplain/my house never flooded” is cut from the same logic as “I don’t need health insurance because I’m in good health”.
    As Mark Twain wrote “you pays your money and you takes your chances” – and he knew a thing or two about flooding.

  • We live in a house close to 99 in Katy. We have lived in this area for most of the last 10 years — in two different houses. I can tell you that each time we bought there was no mention, that I recall, of being inside of a potential bowl of water from the Barker reservoir. Nor were we mandated by mortgage companies to require flood insurance. We are MILES from the dam itself and never considered it. None of our neighbors did. Imagine our shock to wake up days after the storm to suddenly learn we were in a mandatory evacuation zone. Fortunately our house was far enough west, and high enough, that we didn’t take any damage. Many of our friends and neighbors weren’t so lucky. As we eventually learned, hardly anyone had flood insurance. We didn’t. It’s not that we weren’t in a 100 year flood plain, I don’t think we’re in the 500 year either. I have since purchased flood insurance (Fool me once, etc).

    But I do think there is a case to be made against some agencies. What we’re learning now about lack of prudence between developers, ACOE, and Fort Bend County seems to be at least a little suspect. Some of these neighborhoods perhaps should have never been built. Additionally, the flood zone maps seem woefully out of date and do not take into account the further upstream development.

    I get it — many people are going to point the finger at the homeowner and either their lack of planning or insurance. Fair point. But this event caught a lot of people off guard and I believe exposed a lot of problem that still need to be addressed.

  • People who bought homes built inside a reservoir and weren’t confronted with a large print document that said “THIS HOME IS INSIDE A RESERVOIR! DO NOT BUY IT! IF YOU READ THIS AT CLOSING STAND UP AND PUNCH THE SELLER IN THE FACE!!” before they closed have my sympathy. There’s no good excuse for building these homes in the first place. If I found out my home was built inside a reservoir I would be suing everyone I could.

  • Consider the following:
    1. Houston as a whole is a low-lying area.
    2. FEMA Flood Maps are outdated; this is not a new revelation following Harvey.
    3. Flood insurance for Zone X is cheap (I pay $425/year for $200k building/$80k contents coverage)
    4. Your house is outside of both the 1% and 0.2% flood plains (i.e. Zone X)
    Given those four conditions alone, buying flood insurance should be a no brainer for anyone that owns property in Houston, particularly if you’re even *near* a 100 or 500 year line. And after this event, which has made it quite clear that the models that determine what a 0.2% and 1% event is are inadequate, not getting flood insurance wherever you are in this town makes no sense at all. Heck, it doesn’t even take a Harvey to flood your “never been flooded house” – all it takes is a blocked storm drain, a collapsed drainage ditch, poor lot grading, or any number of other non-“biblical” localized catastrophic events. Hopefully more people will realize this now, but it’s very sad that so many didn’t until 40-50″ of rain fell over the entire county in less than 48 hours.

  • Barker Dam is more than just the part the runs along Highway 6. The dam itself has a southern part that runs east-west until it peters out at the Fort Bend County Tax Office, only 1500 feet short of Highway 99.
    Do people never wonder why, in the middle of an unrelentingly flat stretch of land, there’s a small hill on Mason and Peek as they enter their Canyon Gate and Grand Lakes neighborhoods from FM 1093? Or what that very long east-west ridge could be at the top of the hill? Or why it is labeled “Barker Dam Trail” and “George Bush Park Levee Rd” on the map? That’s a dam, people, and your houses are on the inside-the-bowl side of it!
    Everything between the Brazos and highway 6 should have been left as rice fields.

  • As I understand it, someone had to sue the Army Corps of Engineers to be able to build there.

  • I would think living downstream of a 70+ year old earthen dam would be reason enough to have flood insurance.

  • @nmj — We’re are referring to upstream, not downstream

  • @HaventFloodedYet Depending on the whims of the Army Corps of Engineers, of course.

  • The FEMA floodplain maps were completely updated in 2007 after 5 years of completely restudying Harris County. They dramatically widened floodplains to many cries from residents and businesses.

    No flood map not matter how accurate would depict floodplains that map to Harvey. FEMA panels only exist to determine property damage risk due to riverine flooding.

    I guess I’ll have to cover my ears for the next couple of months with people making wild statements with no understand for which they speak.

  • @ kjb434: That FEMA flood maps only depict a certain esoteric definition of flooding is not well understood by those whom are stakeholders in that endeavor, and so it is a failure of engineering just about by definition. One can appreciate the statistically-driven geospatial art form that is FEMA flood mapping and yet also recognize that it is so rule-bound and compartmentalized that it doesn’t always adequately answer the very question that justifies its existence.
    I would suggest two new layers for analysis: 1) above and below dams, indicate an area which could plausibly flood in the event of a dam’s spillway being overtopped, and 2) below dams, indicate an area which could plausibly flood in the event that the dam were to catastrophically fail at any given point while spillways were overtopped.