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Federal trial underway in Kansas City centering on ‘Mighty MO’ flooding

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Roger Ideker says farmers are environmentalists. That was his message when FOX 4 first profiled the northwest Missouri farmer who says he's been a victim of major flooding, including the massive flood of 2011. Ideker and 371 other farmers from North Dakota to Missouri allege in a federal lawsuit that government mismanagement of the river is to blame.

The trial for that lawsuit, first profiled by FOX 4 News in 2014, is now underway in a Kansas City federal courtroom. It's being heard by a judge from the Federal Claims Court, and will eventually move to Washington, D.C. for additional testimony.

Attorney Dan Boulware says 44 of the farmers have been chosen to testify on behalf of the entire group in what's known as a "mass action case." The farmers argue that the government, by switching its management of the river from flood control to protecting three endangered species, managed to unconstitutionally "take" their land under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, by rendering it risky to farm. They seek millions of dollars in "compensation" for the government's action.

The case rests on the premise farmers were invited to farm river land by the Flood Control Act of 1944. Dams and locks tamed and narrowed the river. But years later, the government caved to environmental pressure, they argue, and allowed the river to return to its natural state. That meant a wider river and more floods, which caused them millions of dollars.

Boulware expects the case to last until early June. When the case moves to Washington on April 24, plaintiffs will offer experts, then the government will present its case. The judge will render a decision after that. A jury is not involved in federal claims cases.

The Army Corps of Engineers has told FOX 4 it does not comment on pending litigation.