If the Addicks and Barker Dams Fail

They've already been labeled "high risk." Experts say the resulting damage could be bigger than Katrina in New Orleans.

Dunbar explains that the Corps held one public meeting in 2010, but after he reviewed the PowerPoint slides and spoke with some people who attended the confab, he determined that "neither the presentation nor these people recalled the Corps ever talking about the fact that this was at an extremely high risk of failure and what the real problems were. The presentation really was, 'Well, we designated this as Level I, but don't worry about it. We've really done this to get priority in funding to do repairs, and everything is fine and dandy.'"

That doesn't sit well with attorney Mary Carter, who is counseling Blackburn on Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She also happens to live on the edge of the flood plain in the Memorial Glen subdivision. "The Corps and Harris County Flood Control have assured that people are safe. I certainly hope that's good information."

Meanwhile, West Houston resident Rosencranz, one of the select few who are hip to the potential dangers, says that Houston might not ever recover if the dams failed. "It's a lot like the lower Ninth Ward levee — as long as it doesn't break, everything is fine, but if it breaks, you have a major issue."

In fall 2009, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tagged West Houston's Addicks and Barker dams with an "extremely high risk of catastrophic failure" label. According to the Corps, the 1940s-era dams, which leaked in April 2009, are two of the country's six most dangerous. As a result, the Corps, during an abnormal weather event, might be forced to release more rainwater downstream, which could send Buffalo Bayou out of its banks and flood homes in Memorial and Tanglewood.
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In fall 2009, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tagged West Houston's Addicks and Barker dams with an "extremely high risk of catastrophic failure" label. According to the Corps, the 1940s-era dams, which leaked in April 2009, are two of the country's six most dangerous. As a result, the Corps, during an abnormal weather event, might be forced to release more rainwater downstream, which could send Buffalo Bayou out of its banks and flood homes in Memorial and Tanglewood.
Mauro Amoro attempts to reel in catfish at George Bush Park following last Thursday's downpours. The nation's sixth-largest city park, which nestles the hazardous Barker Dam, is a favorite amongst gun enthusiasts, cyclists, soccer players and dog-park lovers.
Daniel Kramer
Mauro Amoro attempts to reel in catfish at George Bush Park following last Thursday's downpours. The nation's sixth-largest city park, which nestles the hazardous Barker Dam, is a favorite amongst gun enthusiasts, cyclists, soccer players and dog-park lovers.

He also says that he shouldn't have to consider moving to higher ground. "Part of the solution isn't to move out of the area; it's something that the Corps of Engineers should deal with," says Rosencranz. "Pretty much all of West Houston and downtown is in that flood plain. Where would you move? Beaumont?"

steve.jansen@houstonpress.com

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13 comments
stit60
stit60

LOL!  I always enjoy these apocolyptic weather articles yall do.  Makes me laugh, makes me worry and makes me think.  WHAT IF???  Holy shhhhh.  Okay.  I'm in Mission Bend---close.  I'm goin' to Home Depot RIGHT FRIGGIN NOW and buy some wood.  Time to build an ark!

red.marcy.rand
red.marcy.rand topcommenter

More leftist apocalyptic alarmism ! The sky is falling ! Govmint must come to the rescue !

Can you believe that we folks out here in San Fransicko don't give a fiddler's fart what happens to Houston ?

turtletxn
turtletxn

Allison did not "destroy" 90 of 105 buildings on the University of Houston campus....

There is a giant difference in a building being flooded and/or damaged and a building being "destroyed."

For the record, call me a "nitpicker" but I quit reading the article at this point.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Too bad they can't fix thee dam. Too many trees to cut down for bike paths that already exist. 

tlafaver
tlafaver

It is difficult to believe much of this when it is infused with such hyperbolic statements; like water up to the tenth floor of buildings in the Energy Coriddor, and 90 of 105 buildings on UH campus destroyed during TS Allison. Get your facts straight!

Inthedamsshadow
Inthedamsshadow

Before claiming that 99 percent of the people in West Houston are not aware of the current situation, you might try actually coming out and speaking with some of the residents beyond simply those who are involved in the lawsuit. Most of my neighbors are hyper sensitive to the issues, including those concerning the City's efforts to destroy our forests to gain a paltry (but politically expedient from a Memorial super neighborhood perspective) 110 acre feet of water detention. The most important part of the story is left out - what are Congressmen Culberson, McCaul, Green, Paul and Olson doing to get funding and approval for not only upgrading the dams, but also for the Clodine Regional Detention Basin? What are Harris County and Fort Bend County doing to encourage the Congressmen to fund the dam upgrades and the development of the Clodine Regional Detention Basin? What are any of our elected officials doing to encourage the construction of a new reservoir northwest of the Addicks Reservoir? Our Mayor seems to think water stops at the City of Houston boundaries and she does nothing to work with other government entities responsible for water being fed into Buffalo Bayou from beyond. This story is larger and more complex than just the dams. See www.briarforestsn.org for some additional information. By the way, there were four meetings put on by the Corps, not just one (and they were all very well attended by our residents). Just because the local media does not question us or report our concerns does not mean we are ignorant to the issues.

1967warren
1967warren

here is just a reminder for all the newcomers to houston. google alvin or friendswood on july 25 and 26 1979. the N.W.S. weather station in alvin recorded over 42" of rain in 24hrs. yea that's right! for the few that lived in this,we will never forget and we have a good laugh when we read about these projected events based on just a few inches and what they could do to houston, ha. wait for the big one, it has happened before and will happen again some where

lovemadjc
lovemadjc

wow! i worry bout storms and heavy rains but to know we can be wiped out from this dam....when is this going to be a problem when were all gone?

Shummel67
Shummel67

I believe most taxpayers would be willing to fund a worthy project like this. We are unwilling to continue funding the waste that is rampant in all forms of government. I believe the City of Houston just received a grant to do some "improvements" along Buffalo Bayou like install a public shower?

Anse
Anse

If a psychic has an office out there and hasn't packed it up and left, then what in the heck are we worrying about?

nitpicker
nitpicker

I believe Barker's on the north of I-10 and Addicks on the south. "nitpicker"

ypman
ypman

The government has been playing a game of chance when it comes to dams for years. One only needs to visit the site of the Teton Dam collapse in Idaho for proof. While the USACE may say the problem is not really imminent they also can't say it will not happen soon. Then again part of the problem is also taxpayers unwilling to pay any additional taxes to make improvements to the nations aging infrastructure.

Interested Bystander
Interested Bystander

"thud against upper-floor windows of an Energy Corridor office tower" is pretty hyperbolic since a 10 story building would be over 100' high. Would be a enormous stetch to get water that high. However it might wash away 2nd Baptist on Voss away so al might not be so bad.

 
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