DRAINMOD Model Established in United States Federal Court of Appeals
January 2004

In January 2004, the DRAINMOD computer simulation model was established in the United States Federal Court of Claims, 97-821L, Henderson County Drainage District #3, et al., v. United States of America, in one of the largest takings cases brought against the United States. HCDD#3 and ten other agricultural drainage districts and individual property owner plaintiffs brought the case alleging that the US Army Corps of Engineers Nine Foot Navigational Project constructed in the 1930's along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers had caused an inverse taking of their properties and districts' facilities. The plaintiffs alleged that the Corps project consisting of dams, locks and levees along the rivers had increased seepage through the levees, increased groundwater levels, increased wetness in the agricultural fields thereby taking their properties and districts. The court heard two test cases Henderson County Drainage District #3 in Henderson, County Illinois and Marion County Drainage District in Marion County, Missouri. The complaint indicates that the plaintiffs were seeking approximately 440-million dollars.

The US Army Corps of Engineers had entered into contractual releases with the drainage districts in 1961 with payments for all past and future damages having to due with the navigational project. The plaintiffs argued that the 1961 releases did not prevent the plaintiffs from bringing a constitutional claim of taking of private property without compensation. The plaintiffs argued that they were not time barred since the cause of action did not begin to accrue until a Corps letter in 1994 indicated that the government had in essence established a flowage easement in 1961. The government argued that no flowage easement was ever acquired. The court decided that the 1961 release may not preclude takings and therefore the trial was held to argue the merit of any claims under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

In the defense of the United States of America, Dr. Barrett L. Kays, soil and groundwater scientist, conducted a detailed evaluation of the allegations using the DRAINMOD computer simulation model developed at North Carolina State University. Dr. Kays evaluated the causes of wetness within the districts with daily model simulations from 1950 through 2002. Evidence was presented showing that surface and subsurface flooding was no greater than occurred prior to the Corps project. Evidence was also presented showing that severe wetness problems within the districts was due to an antiquated approaches to water management that dates back to 1913 when the drainage districts were established. The proximate cause of the severe wetness problems was from rain falling onto the districts and not due to the adjacent rivers. This case represents the first time that the DRAINMOD simulation model has been used in federal court.

Dr. Paul H. Schwartz, P.E., geotechnical engineer, conducted seepage analysis of the river levees by piezometer study. Mr. Michael A. Ports, P.E., hydraulic engineer with Black & Veatch, conducted a study of the operations of the US Army Corps of Engineers dams, locks and levees, as well as, operations of the drainage districts. Mr. Kevin J. Landwehr, P.E., hydraulic engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, also conducted a study of operations of dams, locks, and levees.

Mr. Alan Brenner, Ms. Julia Kingsley Evans, and Mr. William Shapiro, Trial Attorneys with US Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division, along with Mr. Rian Hancks, Assistant General Counsel of US Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District represented the United States. Mr. Gary H. Baise, Attorney and Partner and Mr. Alexander M. Bullock, Attorney of Baise & Miller, Washington, DC represented the plaintiffs. The case was heard before US Federal Judge Emily C. Hewitt in the historic Warren County Courthouse in Monmouth, Illinois.