Back in June, we looked at how extensive new development along the Grand Parkway is contributing to a scary scenario where the Addicks and Barker dams could fail with Katrina-like effects.
Now a federal judge has agreed with us, kinda.
U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison has issued a 42-page memorandum ruling (first reported by the Houston Chronicle) that says the Army Corps of Engineers has failed to analyze fully potential flooding problems.
But he refused to block further work on the road project.
The opinion, behind a paywall, does order the Corps to do further studies.
It's something that's needed, if what we found out is correct:
For more than 60 years, the Addicks and Barker dams have prevented an estimated $4.6 billion in flooding damages by limiting large amounts of water from reaching flood-prone Buffalo Bayou. But the dams, once located in the rural nothingness of Harris and Fort Bend counties, have been pushed to their limits, largely due to all of the people and buildings that currently coexist upstream and downstream of the dams.
In April 2009, during an unnamed weather event that leveled the west side with more than nine inches of rain in 24 hours, the dams exhibited signs of irreversible failure. Five months after the 2009 storms, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the dams, which are located near the intersection of Interstate 10 and Beltway 8, slapped Addicks and Barker with an "extremely high risk of catastrophic failure" label. The dams are currently two of the country's six most dangerous, according to the Corps.
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Jim Blackburn, the environmental attorney trying to fight the project, says he was happy, to a degree, with Ellison's order.
"This decision by Judge Ellison was narrow but it has broad implications," he said. "Although Judge Ellison refused to enjoin construction of the road project, his action in forcing the Corps to analyze cumulative impacts on Addicks and Barker is extremely important. In essence, no federal permits to fill wetlands on the Katy Prairie in the Addicks and Barker watersheds will likely be issued until this analysis is completed."