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Court: Army Corps Responsible for Five Years of Missouri River Flooding, But Not 2011

Mike Rounds, Dan Lederman, and other prominent flood-plain dwellers blamed the federal government, specifically the Army Corps of Engineers, for the Missouri River flooding of 2011. Lederman joined a lawsuit against the Corps in 2014.

Yesterday, a federal court ruled that the Corps does bear some responsibility for flooding along the Missouri… but not for the 2011 flooding:

In her ruling, Judge Nancy B. Firestone said that in five of the six years in question dating back to 2007, the Corps violated the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by not compensating farmers for flood-damaged land. She disallowed flood claims in 2011.

Firestone ruled the Corps deprioritized flood control in 2004. That year, the Corps instituted the Missouri River Recovery Program to accelerate changes to the river to enhance wildlife habitats.

In her 259-page opinion, Firestone said the evidence established the Corps’ changes to the river “had the effect of raising the Missouri River’s water surface elevations in periods of high flows.”

The court found that since 2007, flooding has been among the worst in the history of the river, and the Corps’ changes in management either caused or contributed to the flooding [link added; Todd Neeley, “Farmers Win Missouri River Flood Case,” DTN: The Progressive Farmer, 2018.03.14].

The court will now decide “whether the United States has any defenses to these plaintiffs’ claims and other legal and factual issues associated with proving entitlement to just compensation. For those entitled to just compensation, the court will also decide the appropriate amount of compensation.” But any compensation will be limited to flood damage in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2014, but not 2011:

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that 2011 flooding occurred because runoff exceeded the amount of storage in the river’s six reservoirs, not because of changes the corps had made in how it managed river flows. The ruling leaves claims made by Siouxland landowners subject to dismissal.

Senior Judge Nancy Firestone did rule that the corps’ practices that added an emphasis on wildlife habitat protection and restoration rather than flood control were responsible for damages to thousands of acres south of Sioux City caused by five flooding events since 2007. Those landowners could receive government compensation for damage estimated to exceed $300 million [Nick Hytrek, “Local Landowners Dismissed from Missouri River Flooding Lawsuit,” Sioux City Journal, 2018.03.14].

Read Judge Firestone’s full opinion in Ideker Farms, Inc., et al., v. the United States here.


  1. Dave 2018-03-15

    Ahhhh… that explains why Mr. Rounds is pushing the Corps so hard…. he wants a payout…

  2. Roger Elgersma 2018-03-15

    There had been low water in the dam at Pierre and with two years of rain the end of Rounds administration, he bragged that they had learned how to manage the dam. Because the water levels had risen back to normal. The next year his house got flooded and now he wants to sue because after he figured out how to manage the dam, it flooded. Let enough years go by and you can switch sides for your own law suite.

  3. Rorschach 2018-03-15

    People who build their luxury homes on a flat next to a river should insure themselves against flooding. The public should not subsidize their poor decision to build in a flood plain. There is a legal doctrine of assumption of the risk that applies.

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