Corps Of Engineers Loses Appeal In Missouri River Flood Case

The U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on June 16 against the Corps of Engineers in its three-year-old appeal of the Ideker Farms flood-damages case. In that case, a judge in the Court of Federal Claims ruled in 2020 that the Corps’ changes to its management of the Missouri River in 2004 (made in response to lawsuits seeking more protections for endangered species) made it liable for flood-related damages to 372 landowners whose property was damaged by several recurring floods, including the flood of 2011.

Broadened Scope

In its June 16 ruling, the Court of Appeals broadened the scope of the lower court’s finding. It ruled that the lower court erred in not requiring compensation for lost crops in addition to lost property values, and that it also erred in finding that the Corps’ 2004 changes to its Missouri River Master Manual did not cause the 2011 flood specifically.

The lower court had found that the 2011 releases did not have the “single purpose” of protecting endangered species. But the Court of Appeals said the 2004 changes could still have increased the severity of the 2011 floods.

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The appeals court vacated those parts of the lower court’s ruling and remanded the rest to the Federal Claims Court to recalculate compensation, which could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Department of Justice said it is “considering options.” The government may choose to appeal to the Supreme Court.