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Landowners Sue Army Corps for Missouri Floods; Indians: “Welcome to Our River”

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.


  1. Nick Nemec 2014.03.06

    The day will come when the Missouri River reservoirs will silt in. Lewis and Clark Lake first, Oahe will take longer.

  2. mike from iowa 2014.03.06

    Heard a mess of Midwestern wingnuts complain about federal aid for Hurricane Sandy. They say don't build in the flood plain or on the coast. They then turned around and demanded federal aid for tornado damage. Gee,dummies,don't build in tornado alley or the bible belt. One is likely as dangerous as the other.

  3. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    Fact is: if the dams were dredged there wouldn't be enough water in the system to generate the power the corps needs to cash flow. CRST is beginning work on the Cheyenne to reverse a hundred years of mine tailings.

  4. Rorschach 2014.03.06

    The wise man built his house upon the rock,
    The wise man built his house upon the rock,
    The wise man built his house upon the rock,
    And the rain came tumbling down.

    The rain came down and the floods came up,
    The rain came down and the floods came up,
    The rain came down and the floods came up,
    And the house on the rock stood firm.

    The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
    The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
    The foolish man built his house upon the sand,
    And the rain came tumbling down.

    The rain came down and the floods came up,
    The rain came down and the floods came up,
    The rain came down and the floods came up,
    And the house on the sand went "SPLAT!"

  5. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    Flooding is beginning in the upper Missouri basin: when will Lederman, et al. start sandbagging instead of showboating?

  6. Rorschach 2014.03.06

    Sen. Lederman won't start sandbagging. He'll wait until taxpayers do it for him, just like in 2011. His position is that state and federal taxpayers must subsidize his decision to build a mansion on a sand dune next to a river. He believes his decision to build in a flood plain comes with a cradle to grave promise from the government to protect his wealth from mother nature.

  7. Wayne Pauli 2014.03.06

    There have been so many issues over the years in good old SD that I have watched and said, "WTF". But, and this is a huge one, these folks that built in the flood areas first off need their heads examined (coining a phrase from my dearly departed father), and secondly need to get their dirty hands out of my pocket. Do both now...before the spring melt.

  8. Bill Dithmer 2014.03.06

    The advance warning has been given by two Montana papers Sen. Lederman. Time to get your shit in a group.

    The Blindman

  9. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    "Statewide, precipitation in January was nearly 115 percent of average and mountain snowpack is at approximately 120 to 135 percent, meaning near normal snowmelt streamflow volumes are expected across most the major basins in Wyoming."

  10. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 6, 2014

    Gov. Dennis Daugaard has directed state emergency officials to work with federal and local entities to assess the potential for Missouri River flooding this year."

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.06

    Larry, how far downstream have those mining tailings washed? And what is the farthest point downstream on the Cheyenne where substantial mining activity took place?

  12. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    Homestake has his own dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, Cory. Your filters can't handle all the links to it.

  13. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    You can't fix the basin by yourself, CAH.

  14. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    This is Roy Blunt's lawsuit: let it find its own course.

  15. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    It's not unlikely that Missouri will sell some her water to Kansas.

  16. larry kurtz 2014.03.06

    Garrison holds the real power in the system.

  17. Jim 2014.03.06

    If you recall, the Mississippi went out of its banks first, and for about a good month the corps managed the Missouri to provide relief downstream. Then the Missouri basin got huge rains on top of the pack and you know the rest. Downstream states want to turn the tap on and off, but so difficult to find the right balance of interests. We also drain water into rivers much more quickly and efficiently than in the past will all the tile and decrease in natural buffering. All the big basins west of the Mississippi have been abused.

  18. larry kurtz 2014.03.07

    DD laughed off this lawsuit. Mike Rounds built a house in a swamp: is he party to Lederman's quixotica?

  19. lesliengland 2014.03.11

    prayin for rain, and that pesky democrat big government to come bail out South Dakota river-front luminaries when the main-stem system engineers can't contain the flows. lets see, joe manages the disaster and republicans (party of personal responsibility)...sue the government, because after how many years of master manual machinations, its gotta be us, big government, the deep pocket.

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