Stressing out over stressed out dams in west Houston - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Stressing out over stressed out dams in west Houston

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

The Addicks and Barker dams may be small compared to others around the country, but they are a site to behold.

The US Army Corps of Engineers built the structures on Highway 6 near Interstate-10 in the 1940s.  They were built to reduce and prevent flood damage in Houston and along the Buffalo Bayou.

Jim Blackburn, a local environmental attorney, said documents from the Corp of Engineers show the Harris County dams are considered extremely high risk.

"They found, essentially, weaknesses; they found voids in the dam itself and there is some risk the entire dam outlet structure, where the water flows out, could give way," Blackburn said.

Reports show the federal agency has repaired a lot of the structures.  An Army Corps of Engineers representative said they only use the term "high risk" because the dams protect the fourth largest city in the US, not because it is not structurally sound or dangerous.

"Bottom line, that's a dirt levee and it wasn't designed over decades to hold water for long periods of time," Blackburn said.

He is also asking why the corps reduced the capacity of the dams by 40 percent.  He said that lowered the stress on the aging system.

"In July 2010, we lost 60 percent of our western flood control protection and we've never talked about that publicly in Houston, and that's a big deal," he said.

Just three months ago, the corps sent out a public notice, saying they are closely monitoring the dams and reservoirs in west Houston.  Officials said it is part of an extended watch on flood risk management structures.

Should you be concerned?  The Harris County Flood Control District declined to comment on the issue.

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