The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is defending itself at
trial against more than 300 farmers and other landowners who say the agency’s management of the Missouri River has contributed to major flooding in five states, most notably 2011 flooding that caused billions of dollars in damage.
The civil trial that began March 6 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Kansas City, Missouri involves a 2014 lawsuit alleging the Corps has deemphasized flood control along the Missouri and put more emphasis on habitat restoration. The plaintiffs say that’s led to more flooding, including in 2011 flooding that caused billions of dollars in damage.
The U.S. government counters that authorities never promised to stop all Missouri River flooding. A decision isn’t expected until summer, at the earliest.
WHAT’S ALLEGED: Several hundred landowners named in the class-action lawsuit filed in 2014 allege in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that the Army Corps has deemphasized flood control along the Missouri and put more emphasis on habitat restoration, leading to more flooding. The plaintiffs also insist the Corps unconstitutionally deprived them of their land, essentially taking it without compensation.
THE CORPS’ STANCE: The federal government argues in court filings that authorities never promised to stop all flooding along the 2,341-mile-long Missouri, and that the Corps’ providing habitat for endangered species didn’t exacerbate the inundation six years ago. Officials have said the Corps balances flood control and an array of other potential uses of the river, including shipping, recreation and hydropower.
THE TRIAL: The trial began March 6 in Kansas City, Missouri, and will shift in late April to Washington, D.C., with no decision expected at least until summer, at the earliest.
THE JUDGE: The presiding judge _ Nancy Firestone, a former federal prosecutor appointed to the claims court in 1998 _ served in the late 1990s as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice’s environment and natural resources division after holding top positions in the Environmental Protection Agency, including as a judge of its environmental appeals board. She has Missouri connections, having gotten a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis’ Washington University and a law degree from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.