Federal attorneys to appeal judge's Katrina flooding ruling

AP News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2015 6:36 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Federal attorneys filed notice Friday that they will appeal a judge's ruling that the U.S. government is responsible for some of the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina and other storms — flooding blamed on a now-closed navigation channel.

Last May, Judge Susan Braden of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington ruled the flooding constituted a "taking" of property for which people must be compensated under the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs in the case include the government of coastal St. Bernard Parish, adjacent to New Orleans.

Braden ruled in a 2005 lawsuit focused on the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet — a navigation channel built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and blamed by many for flooding in St. Bernard and New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward.

Friday was a deadline set by Braden for the government to decide whether to go to mediation or file its notice of appeal.

The amount of money that might be at stake is unclear. Damages for the current plaintiffs haven't been determined. Another factor: attorneys have sought to have the case determined a "class action," that could make many more property owners eligible for compensation.

Also, New Orleans' city attorney said earlier this year that city officials were compiling information about Lower 9th Ward damages and have been in contact with the plaintiffs' attorneys.

An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a Friday evening call seeking comment.

The suit said the construction, dredging and operation of the navigation canal, known in south Louisiana as "Mr. Go," contributed to conditions that led to catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Hurricane Rita weeks later and other storms. In effect, the suit argued, the damage caused by the flooding was an illegal taking of private property by the federal government without adequate compensation.

The canal was authorized by Congress in 1956 as a shortcut from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico and was completed years later. It was shut down in 2009.