Corps of Engineers is liable for some Missouri flooding, judge rules

A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is liable for some of the flooding that has occurred along the Missouri River since 2007.

In her ruling, Judge Nancy B. Firestone carved out an exception for the devastating flooding of 2011. That summerlong flood was historic and beyond the influence of the corps.

More than 350 plaintiffs — farmers, landowners, business owners — from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Leavenworth, Kansas, are parties to the class-action lawsuit. Filed in 2014, the lawsuit claims that the corps violated the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which bars taking property without compensation. Essentially, property owners said the corps changed its practices in part to improve habitat for endangered and threatened species and those changes had exacerbated flooding.

Firestone, who presides over the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., agreed and ordered the case moved to the next stage, a determination of damages. Plaintiffs have said 100 flood events have occurred, and one damage estimate reaches $300 million.