Mississippi sues flooding, Seeking $25 million from government.
The state of Mississippi is seeking $25 million from the federal government for the alleged loss of 8,000 acres of 16th Section land caused by the construction of the Old River Control Structure.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann announced Monday he and Attorney General Jim Hood filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., seeking damages caused by artificial flooding resulting from the construction of the Old River Control Structure by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to the complaint, the flooding affects 16th Section land in Claiborne, Adams and Wilkerson counties.
The suit claims the artificial flooding amounts to an unconstitutional taking of the 16th Section land. The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment Takings Clause requires the government to pay just compensation when it takes property for public use, according to information from the Secretary of State’s office.
“All of the money raised by the leasing of 16th Section lands, timber sales, and other transactions related to those properties goes directly to our public schools,” said Hosemann, who serves as the supervisory trustee for 16th section land.
“When this public trust land is destroyed unlawfully, our children are the ones who suffer. The only responsible solution is for the federal government to make our school districts whole.”
If the state wins its case, he said, the $25 million would be split among the school districts.
The Old River Control Structure was built in 1960 to control the Mississippi River and prevent it from changing course by merging with the Atchafalaya River and going south to Morgan City, Louisiana.
At the time of the project, Hosemann said, easements were purchased on the Louisiana side of the river for the project.
“There are levees on the Louisiana side of the river,” he said. “There are no levees on the Mississippi side.
“Part of the issue is not just the water, it’s the silt,” Hosemann said, adding 150 million tons of silt goes down the river every year. “That 150 million tons of silt goes somewhere, and it doesn’t all go down off the end of the Mississippi.
“As this has gone along and continued to aggregate over the years, the silt sediment has backed up water onto Mississippi. It’s obvious to us that this silting is occurring and is causing the water to backup on 8,000 acres of school land.”
He said Corps of Engineers studies indicated opening the gate at the control structure to allow more of the Mississippi to flow through the facility would not significantly reduce the flooding on the 16th Section land.
“When it became obvious to me that this was going to be a permanent nature, I got our researchers in the Secretary of State’s office to work with Attorney General Hood and his staff,” Hosemann said.
After reviewing all the previous studies on the structure’s effect on Mississippi and similar suit in Arkansas and Missouri, he said, “We came to the conclusion that this was something we would have to file in order to protect 8,000 acres of Mississippi land.”
Hosemann said the Corps decisions to build the Old River Control Structure to protect Baton Rouge and New Orleans, “Are not an issue with me or with the state of Mississippi.
“Given the facts as they had them in 1954 and the possible catastrophic moving of the Mississippi River and what that would do to New Orleans and Baton Rouge and the refineries, it was clearly the appropriate decision to be made.
“To me, this is just a constitutional issue. The government by these actions paid for easements in Louisiana and they never paid Mississippi, and now our land’s flooded and we can’t harvest timber for our school districts.
“It’s the river; when they decided to protect New Orleans and Baton Rouge, thy decided to take property from Mississippi.”