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Homeowners respond to federal judge dismissing lawsuit over Addicks, Barker releases during Hurricane Harvey

Judge says storm was ‘Act of God’

HOUSTON – Homeowners in west Houston responded to a federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit Tuesday filed against the Army Corps of Engineers over the release of water from the two west Harris County reservoirs.

Federal Judge Loren A. Smith said the court says it is sympathetic to the losses of those impacted as a result of Hurricane Harvey, the court said the government is not responsible for imperfect flood control of waters created by an “Act of God.”

Federal engineers said the controlled releases from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs were necessary after both pools reached record levels. They said the releases would protect the integrity of the dams and prevent catastrophic damage if the dams were breached.

Cynthia Neely lives in the West Memorial neighborhood. Her home was destroyed when water from the reservoirs were released. She’s among the nearly 10,000 homeowners named in the lawsuit. Neely said she’s disheartened by the judge’s ruling.

“God didn’t open the flood gates,” she said. “The army did and they took our property and they took the life of my neighbor across the street. She drowned in a wheelchair from the water being released.”

Neely was able to move back into her home in 2019. Her entire house had to be renovated and she had to dip into her retirement account early to fund the project. The first floor of her house is unfurnished out of fear of another flood.

“I feel the Army instead of protecting us for the last 40 years enabled Mother Nature to flood us,” Neely said.

Jack McGehee, a lead attorney with the McGehee, Chang, Landgraf, Feiler Law Firm said the judge got it wrong and they plan to appeal the ruling.

“The homeowners had their properties sacrificed for the greater good and they’re not critical of the Corps,” said McGehee. “The Corps did a good job but their homes were sacrificed and when they’re sacrificed the 5th Amendment says they get just compensation.”

Judge Smith will hold a status conference Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.


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