WASHINGTON Private property owners might deserve payment when public agencies temporarily flood their land, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case closely watched by farmers around the country.
Pleasing property-rights advocates, the court ruled 8-0 that even temporary flooding can amount to a "taking" for which the Constitution requires compensation. The ruling in a case that arose from Arkansas will reach everywhere that government actions affect waterways.
"Because government-induced flooding can constitute a taking of property, and because a taking need not be permanent to be compensable
government-induced flooding of limited duration may be compensable," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote.
A stalwart of the court's liberal wing, Ginsburg nonetheless led conservatives as well in rejecting the Obama administration's insistence that temporary floods should be exempt from the Fifth Amendment's requirement that private property won't "be taken for public use, without just compensation." The 19-page ruling means that the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission might get paid eventually for the Black River flooding damage that resulted when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released water from Clearwater Dam in Missouri.
The ruling also empowers more distant property owners, such as the Wolfsen Land and Cattle Co., located along the San Joaquin River in California. Wolfsen joined other California farmers in filing a friend-of-the-court brief.
The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative advocacy group based in Sacramento that filed its own brief supporting Arkansas, praised the court's decision as "an important victory for the rights of all property owners."
© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.
Read more articles by Michael Doyle
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at email@example.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.