Cover Story: We're All Screwed In a Hurricane Katrina-Like Way If Addicks and Barker Dams Are Breached

Last week's rains and floods might be child's play compared to what could be in store for Houston if Addicks and Barker dams were to crumble into dust.

Located near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Beltway 8, the two flood-control mechanisms have been at an "extremely high risk of catastrophic failure" since fall 2009. As discussed in this week's cover story, this "high risk" tag by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who built and own the dams, means that the flood-control mechanisms are two of the country's six most dangerous dams.

According to local environmental attorney James Blackburn, a broken Addicks and Barker dams would destroy Houston -- and in a more serious way than what Katrina did to New Orleans.

The Sierra Club, who has taken the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to court, alleges that the Corps pulled a huge no-no when they allowed the continued construction of the Grand Parkway (Highway 99). The environmental group, who claims that the Corps has downplayed their "extremely high risk" label, says that the additional concrete from residential and commercial properties will create more storm-water runoff and flood potential.

The Corps, who are attempting to sign a proposal and receive funding in order to make improvements to the dams, says that Addicks and Barker "are not in imminent danger of failing."

In the meantime, the Corps have come up with some temporary solutions for the dams. One of those includes the possible release of rainwater that could flood homes from Wilcrest Drive down to Chimney Rock Road.

Though last summer's drought helped to keep things quiet, the storms that we've experienced over the past two weeks -- which made the Houston Press staff look as if they took a shower with their clothes on -- caused a whole bunch of problems for locals. Cypress Creek swelled out of its bank, while two fishermen required rescue from a rain-bombarded Addicks Reservoir.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen