SIOUX CITY | The 2011 Missouri River flood ruined the Ponca, Neb., fields where Mark Poulosky grows grain.
"We had 250 acres that were under water," said Poulosky, 61, "some of it up to 10 feet deep.”
Now Poulosky is hoping the federal government will pay for the damage he incurred.
He is one of 187 plaintiff names listed in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, claiming the agency’s decisions since 2006 have contributed to major flooding in five states.
The lawsuit said landowners should be compensated for the extensive damage they experienced — particularly during the extended 2011 flooding that devastated hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly farmland in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.
Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Maggie Oldham said the Corps is aware of the lawsuit, but does not comment on litigation.
The lawsuit said the Corps has deemphasized flood control while deciding how to manage Missouri River reservoirs as part of an effort to restore habitat for endangered species, and it claimed that has contributed to more flooding.
"These floods have substantially impacted and destroyed Plaintiffs' land and property, depriving them of its use and enjoyment for extended periods of time and, in some cases, permanently," the lawsuit said. "But for the Corps' departure from its longstanding flood control policies and procedures, most if not all of this flooding would not have occurred at all."
The lawsuit includes farmers, small businesses and other property owners along the river. Several are from Siouxland, including South Dakota state Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes. He said he was still paying flood-related bills months after the water receded.
Lederman coordinated a meeting in Fort Pierre, S.D., about a month ago so people could discuss becoming part of the lawsuit.
"This is an issue that affects residents and farmers along 1,700 miles of the Missouri River," he said. "The lawsuit addresses the losses suffered."
Lederman said more flooding could occur if the Corps doesn't alter the management plan to include a higher priority on limiting high-water events.
Outside experts who reviewed the 2011 flooding said the Corps did the best it could in dealing with record amounts of water that flowed into the 2,341-mile-long river after unusually heavy spring rains in Montana and North Dakota.
But there has been flooding along the river in five of the past seven years, and that wasn't the case before creating wildlife habitat became a higher priority, said Eddie Smith, one of the plaintiff's lawyers.
"We believe this flooding wouldn't have occurred if the Corps hadn't turned its back on its effort to tame the river," Smith said.
The 2011 flooding lasted more than three months after the Corps began releasing massive amounts of water from reservoirs upstream that were filled by melted snow and heavy rains. The floodwaters overwhelmed levees, carved gouges up to 50 feet deep, created sand dunes 15-feet-deep and deposited strange debris on farmers' fields.
In Sioux City, the river reached 35.25 feet on July 21, 2011, well above the 30-foot level that marks flooding.
Poulosky said he joined the lawsuit not particularly for the money, but to make sure the Corps makes changes so similar flooding doesn't happen again. His farmland was under water for three months. After the water receded, he was left with sand drifts up to 12 feet high.
Poulosky recognizes that the legal process could go on for quite a while.
"It is going to be a long deal,” he said, “but good stuff happens to those that wait, I hope.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.