Corps Faces New Missouri River Lawsuit
Because farmer Roger Ideker and two other plaintiffs are awaiting an appeal of their judgement against the Corps of Engineers, a new lawsuit against the Corps for the effects of its Missouri River management policies has been delayed by the Federal Claims Court.
Ideker and other plaintiffs won a judgement from the court in 2018 that the Corps of Engineers had unlawfully damaged their riverfront land by changing its Master Manual in 2004 to de-emphasize flood control in favor of species habitat protection. Judge Nancy Firestone of the Federal Claims Court examined a series of floods between 2007 and 2014 and concluded that some—but not others, including the 2011 floods that caused $2 billion worth of damage—resulted from the changes.
In a ruling this past December, Firestone reiterated that the damaging changes to the river came from alterations to the Corps’ Master Manual for Missouri River Operations.
In March 2019, the compensation phase of the trial began. Firestone said federal law didn’t allow her to include the value of lost crops in her valuation of the land. That year saw unprecedented levels of flooding, which again sent the Ideker farm and many others underwater, although that flood was not covered by the ruling.
In December 2020, the new lawsuit was brought against the Corps of Engineers by farmers in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. Like the Ideker Farms plaintiffs, they are represented by attorney R. Dan Boulware of the Polsinelli law firm. The plaintiffs claim illegal “takings” of their riverfront land, similar to the Ideker Farms suit. The new lawsuit represents 60 landowners in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas, who seek to be certified as a class, which could expand the new plaintiff list into the hundreds.