By now we've seen and heard the stories of the thousands of homes near the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs that flooded during Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent release of the reservoirs. But it turns out that many of those homes aren't just adjacent to the reservoirs, they are actually inside the reservoirs.
An investigation by the Texas Tribune found that, of the 50 square miles originally set up for the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, only 38 square miles is owned by the government. The remaining 12 square miles was used for private development, including residential housing. That means thousands of homes were built inside an area that is designed to flood. The Tribune also found that many of the people who live in those homes didn't know they were inside the reservoir, because there is no law requiring them to be told.
The Tribune questioned two key figures in the development of homes inside the reservoirs. One was Stephen Costello, better known as Houston's "flood czar." His engineering firm signed off on some of these developments more than a decade ago, but he told the Tribune he didn't personally know they were inside the reservoirs. "I wasn't paying that much attention, to be candid...I'm not quite sure if I really knew that much about it," he said. "If that information was available at the time that these developments occurred, then it wouldn't have happened...the developer wouldn't have developed those lands."
The Tribune also questioned Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert, who signed off on plants for some of those developments. "I don't read the plants, we sign dozens of plants every week," he said. Hebert added it's easy to raise questions now after Harvey, but that nobody saw a storm like this coming. "Why didn't you come here and talk to me (before the storm)...didn't you know Harvey was gonna happen," he asked the Tribune reporter.
Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is not commenting due to lawsuits filed by flooded homeowners.