Judge Finds U.S. Government Responsible for Missouri River Flooding
April 20, 2018
Written By Adam Buckallew
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a group of 372 farmers, landowners and businesses who filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for damages caused by repeated Missouri River flooding in recent years.
Senior Judge Nancy Firestone of the United States Court of Federal Claims found the Corps of Engineers liable for damages caused by recurring floods that damaged farms and property in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.
The court’s ruling cited changes the Corps of Engineers made to its river management policies in 2004, which prioritized wildlife protection over flood control. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the Corps’ actions, which included “reopening historic chutes” and “increased reservoir stage and threatened and endangered species releases,” resulted in “direct, natural, and probable effect of causing flooding or more severe flooding” in five of the last 10 years.
The Court acknowledged “recurrent flooding in the Missouri River Basin . . . will continue into the future,” and increased blocked drainage of farm lands due to higher river levels is a problem.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Roger Ideker of Ideker Farms in St. Joseph, said the ruling “rightfully recognizes the government’s responsibility for changing the river and subjecting us to more flooding than ever before.”
The liability ruling marks the end of the first phase of the lawsuit, which was filed in 2014. The next phase will determine damages, which are estimated to exceed $300 million since 2007.