Army Corps of Engineers braces for flood fight

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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - The 2011 flooding scarred thousands of acres and damaged countless businesses and homes and farms.  But now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brace for a court fight.

Property owner Kenneth Reeder can point to how high the water got in his home next to the Missouri River.  The water stayed there for several weeks and he is still recovering.  Reeder puts some of the blame on the Army Corps for mismanaging the river.

"We helped solve far greater damage. Well in that case if you look at it, then maybe there should be a certain amount of compensation," Reeder said.

He might get just that. Reeder, who also owns land along the river and serves on a federal study group for the corps, said he will be among hundreds of others treading the same water in a lawsuit against the corps for that flood season.

The effort is being handled by the St. Joseph law firm, Murphy, Taylor, Siemens & Elliott P.C.  Nancy Potter, a lawyer with the firm, said they are still seeking clients, even with the hundreds they have currently.

"We have hundreds of clients up and down the Missouri River from South Dakota through Nebraska and Iowa, Missouri and Kansas," Potter said.

The U.S Supreme Court ruled unanimously in an Arkansas case in December, saying under the Fifth Amendment, flooding there constituted a "taking" of land for public purposes and warrants compensation.

Potter said the firm was watching that case closely.  Now, they hope to have the same outcome.

"It's a huge undertaking and I think that it will change a lot that happens a long the Missouri River," Potter said.

But for Reeder, it's not just about winning.

"At this point, it's that that we have broken or cracked that bubble with the glass ceiling that the Corps of Engineers operates unaccountable to taxpayers," Reeder said.

A spokesperson for the area's U.S Army Corps of Engineers said they've rehabilitated many levees in the area after the flood, but she could not comment on the possibility of a lawsuit over flood damage.

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email: gia.vang@wdaftv4.com

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