by Amy Johnson Michael Blaser
Friday, January 27, 2017
The agricultural community in Iowa has been waiting on pins and needles for an answer to four questions certified to the Iowa Supreme Court in a case brought by the Des Moines Waterworks against the Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista County Boards of Supervisors as trustees of their respective drainage districts. In a 3-2 decision issued this morning, Iowa’s Supreme Court refused to over-turn long-standing precedent that drainage districts in Iowa are not susceptible to suit for money damages. In his majority opinion, Justice Thomas D. Waterman stated “[i]n sum, a century’s worth of precedent, including a case our court decided unanimously just four years ago, precludes any remedy against drainage districts other than mandamus.”
While this is not the end for the Des Moines Waterworks case, which still begs the question as to whether agricultural drainage tile is a point source for purposes of federal environmental permitting, today’s ruling is a huge win for farmers and other agricultural-based businesses across Iowa.