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Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States

United States Supreme Court
133 S. Ct. 511 (2012)


Facts

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (Commission) (plaintiff) owned the Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area (Management Area). The Management Area covered approximately 23,000 acres located along both banks of the Black River in Arkansas. In 1948, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (defendant) built and began operating the Clearwater Dam on the Black River, upstream from the Management Area. The Corps adopted and followed a Water Control Manual regarding the rate of water to be released from the dam. However, in 1993, the Corps began deviating from the Water Control Manual. The Corps began extending the amount of time each year that water was released at a slower rate to accommodate farmers. To balance this, the amount of time that a high amount of water was released was also extended. The change in timing caused significant flooding of the Management Area during the growing season for the area’s trees. This deviation continued for approximately six years. The flooding weakened the trees and eventually caused many of the trees to die. The destruction of the trees altered the character of the area and allowed undesirable plant species to invade the area. Reforestation of the area could not occur without reclamation. The Commission sued, alleging that the flooding constituted a taking under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The trial court ruled in favor of the Commission and awarded $5.7 million in damages. The Corps appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit reversed and ruled for the Corps, finding that only permanent flooding could be a taking under the Fifth Amendment. The Commission petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

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