Raizner Slania has filed an inverse condemnation lawsuit on behalf of the owners of a West Memorial area retail center after the Addicks and Barker reservoir releases flooded the property following Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey Makes Landfall on August 25, 2017
When Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017 on the Texas coast, it brought massive amounts of rainfall. Some areas in Houston received 50 inches of rainfall in just four days. However, despite the rainfall, the plaintiff’s property did not experience any flooding.
The Addicks and Barker reservoirs are part of a flood control system in the west side of Houston designed to protect downtown Houston from flooding. The dams on the reservoirs are owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—a U.S. federal agency that operates under the Department of Defense.
The dams on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs protect downtown Houston from flooding by controlling the amount of water in Buffalo Bayou, the largest waterway running through the heart of the city. Normally, the dams remain open and water is allowed to pass freely, but the Army Corps of Engineers closes the dams during heavy rainfall.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, the dam systems were in the middle of a massive renovation. On August 28, 2017 between midnight and 2:00 a.m., the Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from both the Addicks and Barker reservoir systems. The Corps announced thousands of properties would experience flooding as a result of the release.
As both reservoir gates opened and released storm water into Buffalo Bayou in the middle of the night, neighborhoods, buildings, homes, offices, and roadways that were not otherwise flooded by Hurricane Harvey—including the plaintiff’s property—became inundated with water that continued to rise throughout the night and over the course of the next several days. Because of the rapid progression of rising water, many people did not have time to pack up or salvage any belongings and had to be rescued by boat, taking along nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Controlled releases of the reservoirs continued and many homes and businesses remained completely underwater for weeks. The plaintiff’s property was flooded by four to six feet of water that did not recede for over a week. The plaintiff’s property suffered severe interior and structural damage caused by the floodwaters.
Beyond the costs to repair the property and what may be months or years of lost rent, the plaintiff also faces a decrease in the fair market value of its property, both in the rental market and the sales market. Worse still, even once the plaintiff’s property is restored or rebuilt, the continued and long-term effects of mold, deterioration, and rot due to the unprecedented amount of time floodwaters sat inside the property remain unknown.
Violations of the Fifth Amendment
Under the Fifth Amendment, the government is prohibited from taking private property for public use without providing just compensation. When the Army Corps of Engineers decided to begin controlled releases of the reservoirs after Hurricane Harvey, it was for public use, constituting a taking of the plaintiff’s property.