By Kristen Schlemmer, Bayou City Waterkeeper, May 27, 2021
We’re excited to share an update in our lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Last summer, Bayou City Waterkeeper sued the Corps, challenging its decisions to allow development over wetlands and increase flood risk for residents in the Bayou Brae neighborhood of League City, Texas. The Corps sought to dismiss our lawsuit, saying our members’ concerns about flood risk were not something that they — the federal agency in charge of wetlands regulation — could address. In refusing to dismiss our lawsuit today, the court disagreed, validating our concerns about the important role wetlands play in mitigating flood risk. This victory will allow us to continue this important fight in court.
The Corps facilitated wetland destruction without required mitigation
In 2012, Broad Reach Partners, a residential real estate developer, applied for a permit from the Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Broad Reach requested permission to fill about an acre of wetlands on a 30-acre tract along Robinson Bayou, just across the county line in Galveston County in League City—but failed to disclose effects on nearly 9 additional acres of forested wetlands.
Broad Reach’s permit request fell through when the U.S. EPA raised concerns about the effect its project would have on these wetlands. Broad Reach moved forward with the project anyway and permanently filled in all wetlands but those closest to the bayou. Broad Reach also elevated the property several feet above the subdivision next door. When a resident complained, the Corps issued approvals based on information provided by Broad Reach’s consultant, allowing the developer to avoid the federal permit process altogether.
Unmitigated wetland losses have increased flood risk across our region