SUPCO Deciding If Drainage Districts Should Keep Legal Immunity

Date posted - September 16, 2016

Des Moines, Iowa — You may remember that some of our northwest Iowa county boards of supervisors have voted to give money to support the legal defense of counties involved in the Des Moines Waterworks lawsuit against some northwest Iowa drainage districts. The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments this past week about whether the 10 drainage districts in northwest Iowa should keep their immunity from paying damages if the Des Moines Water Works is successful in a federal lawsuit over high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River.

file photo

file photo

Des Moines Water Works attorney John Lande says that granting drainage districts protection from liability is outdated.

Lande says the drainage districts in Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties are no longer just removing water from the land, they are now posing a health concern by removing pollutants and putting them into the waterway. He says the drainage districts could make changes.

Lande was asked what type of remedies the districts could use.

Lande says the drainage districts could use a series of levies and assessments to pay for the changes.

Attorney Michael Reck represents the drainage districts. He says the immunity for the districts has been upheld numerous times.

Justice Mark Appel questioned whether there should be a change.

Reck says one of the reasons is that lawmakers haven’t moved to make a change.

Reck says the way drainage districts work has not changed, they either increase water flow, or slow the water flow.

The Iowa Supreme Court will determine if the districts will have to pay damages if that is the outcome of the federal lawsuit. That lawsuit is expected to go to court in June of 2017.

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