Ideker Farms, Inc. v. United States, No. 21-1849 (Fed. Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The Missouri River, in its natural state, experienced annual flooding that constantly morphed its path and the topography of its floodplain, rendering it unproductive for development. The 1944 Flood Control Act (FCA) authorized the construction of dams to create a reservoir storage system. The FCA required the Army Corps of Engineers to promote navigation and flood control and, secondarily, fish and wildlife conservation. Under the 1945 Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project, the Corps altered the River’s water flow (location, volume, and rate); the floodplain was no longer dynamic by 1980. The Corps' 1979 Master Manual prioritized flood control over recreation and wildlife By 2005, 95 percent of the floodplain was developed for agricultural, urban, and industrial uses. The programs had significant environmental side effects, eliminating fish and bird habitats and interrupting wildlife breeding cycles. In 1986, Congress authorized the Corps to purchase River-adjacent land to recreate lost habitats. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) placed several species on the endangered species list. The Corps did not make changes recommended by FWS, concerned about exacerbating flooding. Lawsuits followed. The district court ordered the Corps to revise its Master Manual,.The 2004 Master Manual was intended to restore the River to a more natural state.
About 372 plaintiffs who operate River-adjacent farms in six states sued, alleging the 2004 Changes caused frequent and severe flooding on their farms and amounted to permanent, physical takings under the Fifth Amendment. The Claims Court determined there was a taking and awarded compensation for the diminished value of the land but dened damages for lost crops. The Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to the takings claims but vacated the denial of crop damages and a finding that the Government did not causally contribute to 2011 flooding.