County Attorney Ryan approved to go after violators of floodplain regulations

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan gained approval during Tuesday’s Commissioners Court to pursue expedited litigation against violators of floodplain regulations.

In the wake of severe flooding caused by last week’s Tropical Storm Imelda, County Attorney Ryan will now have the authority to file lawsuits against individuals and businesses who violate floodplain management regulations without having to seek prior approval from Commissioners Court.

“The County has recognized that flood prevention is a major priority and has empowered my office to help protect our community against those who are unwilling to comply with regulations that ensure the safety of all,” said County Attorney Ryan.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the County Attorney was required to seek Commissioners’ approval to file suit on a case by case basis, which could take two to three weeks. The new streamlined process will allow the County Attorney to address a growing number of enforcement cases for violations that range from structures built below elevation requirements to the placement of unpermitted fill in the floodplain. The County Attorney will also be authorized to expend up to $35,000 for all cases without prior approval.

These cases will be handled by the Environmental Practice Group, which specializes in the enforcement of environmental laws and related County development regulations. These assistant county attorneys also represent the public’s interest by opposing the issuance and renewal of environmental permits if the permit fails to meet federal and state requirements. The group also ensures Harris County’s compliance with environmental regulations; represents the county in state administrative hearings; and coordinates with federal, state, and local stakeholders on environmental legislation, rules, and policies affecting the county and its citizens.

“We cannot overlook these violations, especially as flooding is becoming more prevalent,” added Ryan. “My office will continue to use the tools available to us to prevent un-needed and unwanted pain and suffering within our community.”