Thousands of Houstonians are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, and lay some of the blame at the feet of the U.S. government.
This week, residents and business owners allege in a new court trial that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers knew homes were at risk of flooding and didn't notify property owners, and that the U.S. government consequently owes landowners compensation under eminent domain law. The Department of Justice (DOJ), representing the U.S. government, argues in court filings that the flooding was a temporary occurrence, and does not meet the legal threshold for payment to residents. DOJ declined to comment, and the Army Corps didn’t respond to requests for comment, Realtor.com reports.
The lawsuits say the severe flooding from the storm qualifies as a “taking” of personal property for the benefit of the federal government that requires compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In court filings, the government says that while it is “impossible not to feel sympathy” for the plaintiffs’ losses, residents upstream of the dams knew or should have known of the flooding risk “due to past storms, public documents, newspaper articles, and public meetings.”
Residents and their lawyers say it is unreasonable to suggest potential buyers would sift through U.S. Geological Survey maps to learn about the area before buying. “If they wanted people to know, you just got to come out and tell them,” said Vuk Vujasinovic, a lawyer representing the Bankers.