SIOUX CITY, Iowa — A Missouri law firm plans to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of landowners and municipalities that sustained damage in the 2011 Missouri River flood.
The suit will include parties “up and down the river” from Missouri to South Dakota, said Nancy Potter, an attorney at Murphy, Taylor, Siemens & Elliott in St. Joseph, Mo.
“We’ve put together a large class of people,” Potter said.
The majority of those involved in the suit are farmers, she said, but the lawsuit will also include business owners and municipalities. Potter declined to say how many people have joined the suit.
Scott Olson, a Tekamah, Neb., farmer, said he’s contacted several neighbors and friends to join the suit. Olson had 500 acres of cropland flooded and still has 30 acres under 12 feet of sand.
“It’ll take years to get that soil back into condition,” Olson said.
Potter said she could not divulge details of the suit because it has not yet been filed, but she will be seeking reimbursement for damage caused by flooding and other damages. Potter said the suit likely would be filed sometime this spring in federal court, but she declined to say in which state she would be filing.
The Corps of Engineers had no comment on the suit, said Monique Farmer, a spokeswoman in the organization’s Omaha office.
Potter said she is waiting to file the suit until after she’s had a chance to meet with more clients. A public meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at Central Court, 16th and Colfax streets, in Blair, Neb. Its purpose is to meet with current parties and to provide information to others who might wish to join in the suit. Potter said future meetings may be scheduled closer to Sioux City.
The flood inundated thousands of acres from Montana to Missouri during the summer and fall of 2011 and caused billions of dollars in damage as it deposited tons of sand on fertile cropland, damaged hundreds of homes, farm buildings and roads and breached levees.
The Corps attributed the flooding to record amounts of rainfall that fell in Montana and North Dakota at the same time record snowpack was melting in the Rocky Mountains. The unprecedented runoff levels overwhelmed the reservoirs, leading to record levels of water being released from the six dams on the river.
From the beginning stages of the flooding, critics said the Corps knew runoff from the Rockies would be higher than normal and should have been releasing more water earlier in the spring to make room for it.
In December 2011, a four-member independent panel of hydrology and water management experts released a 99-page report concluding that the record rainfall and runoff left the Corps with few choices and it did all it could to handle all that water.
Olson said he doesn’t expect to ever see any monetary award from the suit, but he’s involved in order to raise awareness of the damage with which landowners still are coping.
“If nothing else, maybe it’ll teach the Corps a lesson to pay attention to what they’re doing,” Olson said.
Tracking the news
WHAT WE KNEW: Flooding along the Missouri River in 2011 caused billions of dollars in damage to private homes, farms and businesses and municipalities.
WHAT’S NEW: A St. Joseph, Mo., law firm plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking damages for those whose property was damaged by the flood.
WHAT’S NEXT: Nancy Potter, an attorney working on the case, said the suit would likely be filed this spring.