Real Estate & Property Law

Army Corps Blasts Hole in Levee to Save Ill., Ky. Towns, Water Level Drops, Flooded Mo. Farmers Sue

In an emergency effort to prevent floodwater from inundating towns in Illinois and Kentucky, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last night blasted a hole in a levee near Cairo, Ill., where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet.

An Army Corps spokesman says the plan seems to be working, since the water level there has already dropped by well over a foot and is expected to go down further. However, farmers in Missouri who have been flooded instead filed a class-action suit against the Corps today in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims contending that the action violated the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment and are seeking compensation, according to a PR Newswire press release and Reuters.

“In the process of breaching the levee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also destroyed, or is in the process of destroying, 90 households and more than 100,000 acres of the country’s richest farmland,” said Missiouri attorney J. Michael Ponder of Cook Barkett, Ponder & Wolz, who represents the pliantiffs, in the release. “This occurred despite the fact that the Corps lacked the easement over the affected property in the floodway. What these property owners and farmers are seeking is just compensation for the land and livelihood they have lost–possibly forever or for decades.”

Prior to the blast, Missouri lost an effort to get the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene and prohibit the Corps from breaching the levee at Birds Point-New Madrid, and unsuccessfully sought a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. The 8th Circuit said the Corps has broad authority to make decisions about flooding.

Additional coverage: “Supreme Court Doesn’t Stop Levee Break that Would Flood Farmland, Save Town”

Associated Press: “Army Corps breaks southeast Missouri levee”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri farmland swamped after levee breach to help Cairo, Ill.”

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