Army Corps to Investigate Potential Wetland Violations on Perry Homes’ Woodridge Village Site

The Army Corps of Engineers is investigating whether Perry Homes, its subsidiaries and contractors violated Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act. The Corps has regulatory authority for any fill material dumped into waters of the U.S. Those include perennial tributaries and adjacent wetlands.

No Record of Request for Jurisdictional Determination

When developers encounter wetlands, normally they seek a jurisdictional determination from the Corps. They want to ensure they are not violating the Clean Water Act. However, neither Perry Homes nor their subsidiaries (PSWA and Figure Four Partners) apparently sought such a determination. Neither did LJA Engineering, according to Corps records.

In June, a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request filed with the Corps of Engineers turned up NO RECORDS of any such request for the Woodridge property. See below.

Army Corps response to June 5, 2019, request for records pertaining to a request for jurisdictional determination on Woodridge Village Wetlands.

The LJA Engineering Drainage Analysis never even mentions wetlands. Wetlands are highly protected because of their ability to filter and retain floodwater, among other things. This multipage article by the USGS describes all the functions of wetlands and legislation affecting them.

Elm Grove Director Requests Investigation

In October, 2019, Beth Guide, a director of the Elm Grove Homeowners Association, went a step further than my FOIA request. She asked the Corps to investigate the legality of the loss of Woodridge Village wetlands. On November 13, 2019, US Congressman Dan Crenshaw received a letter from the Corps stating that the Corps was, in fact, investigating Ms. Guide’s request.

Corps Seeking Access to Property

The Corps is currently contacting Perry Homes (or subsidiary, Figure Four Partners) for access to the site. The Corps characterized the investigation as “an open purported unauthorized activity investigation.”

Colonel Timothy R. Vail, the Corps’ District Commander said, “…we continue to gather all the facts to determine if there is a violation of any of our statutes and if so, determine what might be the appropriate resolution.”

Presence and Importance of Wetlands

Numerous residents near the property noted the wetlands in question. The wetlands also appear in the USGS National Wetlands Inventory.

From the USGS National Wetlands Inventory

For the full text of the letter from the Corps to Congressman Crenshaw, click here.

Ms. Guide believes loss of these wetlands played a role in three floods which struck Elm Grove on May 3, May 7 and September 19 of this year. Before the loss of the wetlands, none of the surrounding neighborhoods ever flooded, according to nearby neighbors. Some of them lived in their homes for more than 30 years.

Typically, wetland vegetation slows down runoff. On the other hand, clearcutting/filling wetlands accelerates runoff. This simple science experiment shows how.

Accelerating runoff reduces the time of accumulation for floodwaters. That means more water reaches ditches faster and at the same time; none is retained upstream. That, in turn, makes floods peak higher.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/16/2019

809 Days since Hurricane Harvey and 58 since Imelda

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.