Snow falls. Snow melts. Rivers flood. It happened in 2011. It may happen again in 2014.
If you're smart, you pay attention to flood plain maps and build on higher ground. If you're rich, powerful, and arrogant, you build in the flood plain and expect the governor to send Joe Lowe and the National Guard to build a levee to spare your big house.
And then you sue.
Dakota Dunes Republican Senator Dan Lederman is among four pages of plaintiffs suing the Army Corps of Engineers for getting their land wet. I count five South Dakota litigants, four from Union County, one from Stanley.
The lawsuit contends that the plaintiffs have seen flooding on their riverside land for five of the last seven years. This flooding, the lawsuit argues, is not natural but results from changes in Army Corps flood management policy. The plaintiffs argue that the government encouraged them to build in the flood plain with its flood control policies, then illegally took their land for the benefit of fish and wildlife.
I suggest the plaintiffs appeal to history for precedent for settlement of their claims. The federal government made a major change to its flood control policy on the Missouri River in 1944, building a string of dams to favor exactly these litigants at the expense of tribal residents and farmers along the river. The Oahe, Big Bend, Fort Randall, and Gavins Point dams flooded great stretches of productive tribal lands. The government's remedy? Forced relocation and Congressionally authorized payments well below what the tribes said their land was worth.
How does it feel to be Indian, Dan?
Related Reading: An eager reader shares this August 2010 Vermillion Plain Talk article in which a Yankton Sioux woman describes how the dams disrupted her family's livelihood. Senator Dan Lederman is not quoted in the article.