Ft Bend Cty v. US Army Corps, No. 21-20174 (5th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
This case arises from major flooding events in the Houston area in 2016 and 2017. Local political subdivisions sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers, seeking compliance with alleged regulatory obligations. The district court dismissed with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The fundamental issue in the case is whether the Corps has violated any enforceable, legal obligation in the management of the relevant dams and reservoirs. A potential source for obligations imposed on the Corps is the 2012 Water Control Manual (“WCM”) adopted by the Corps for flood control in the relevant watershed.
The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that Section 702 of the APA has been satisfied in that the complaint alleges Plaintiffs have been aggrieved by agency action, that the suit is not one for money damages, and that the injury arises from an officer or employee who has acted or failed to act in an official capacity or under color of law. Further, the court held that the Tucker Act does not provide an “adequate remedy” to the County’s claims within the meaning of Section 704. Further, the court wrote that since the regulation does not specify when such conditions require the Corps to update a WCM, the Corps must exercise discretion in deciding when updating a WCM is necessary. Such discretion is antithetical to a mandatory duty. Thus the court concluded there is no discrete, mandatory duty to revise.