KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Landowners inundated by Missouri River flooding are preparing to sue the U.S. government, saying a recent Supreme Court ruling opens the door for them to receive damages, an attorney said Tuesday.
“We believe that the way the river system was managed culminating in the 2011 flood resulted in some of these farmers and landowners sustaining a tremendous amount of damage,” St. Joseph attorney Ed Murphy said, adding that there had been flooding in previous years and that the “monster in 2011” was “foreseeable.”
In 2011, the Army Corps of Engineers released massive amounts of water from upstream reservoirs that had been filled with melting snow and heavy rains. The onslaught lasted for more than 100 days, busting levees, carving gouges, dumping sand and scattering tree limbs and other debris on farmers' fields.
Murphy said that he has been meeting with farm and levee groups and that the plaintiffs could come from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and possibly even South Dakota.
The corps has repeatedly defended its actions, but spokesman David Kolarik said Tuesday that the agency wasn't able to comment on pending litigation.
Murphy said his case will be helped by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in December that the federal government is not automatically exempt from paying for damage caused by temporary flooding from its dams.
The court sided with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in its appeal of a lower court ruling that said the federal government did not have to pay for damage to thousands of trees after the corps released more water than usual from its dam on the Black River.
The commission said the damage amounted to the government taking its property, for which compensation would be owed under the Constitution.
The Court of Federal Claims agreed and ordered the government to pay $5.6 million for destroyed and damaged trees. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said damage resulting from temporary flooding, as opposed to permanent or inevitable flooding, cannot be compensated under the Constitution's “takings clause.”
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