WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a case that pits the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission against the federal government.
At issue is the Fifth Amendment prohibition against the taking of private property for public use without just compensation.
The AFGC wants to collect $5.7 million from the U.S. Corps of Engineers for timber losses at the Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area in northeastern Arkansas.
The Commission claims that the U.S. Corps deviated from its standard water release program during the 1990s, leading to six-years of flooding across much of the 23,000-acre management area downstream.
The result of those floods was predictable and extensive, the commission contends — destruction of much of the bottomland hardwood forest that made the area a premier site for duck hunting and a popular location for bird watching.
The Corps, however, says the flooding was temporary and therefore not subject to the "taking clause." The federal agency argues that to rule otherwise could jeopardize the nation’s flood control system.
AGFC won an early decision when the Court of Federal Claims ordered the Corps to pay $5.7 million to compensate the state wildlife for 18 million board feet of timber destroyed by the flooding.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last year overturned that ruling. The AGFC appealed to the nation’s highest court.
The case has drawn national attention. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities and National Association of Counties have filed a brief in support of the Corps.
The National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Home Builders, American Farm Bureau and American Forest Resource Council have filed a brief in support of the AGFC.