15 January 2013

SCOTUS in Plain English: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe Supreme Court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case at SCOTUblog below. For similar posts, click here.

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States

In 1948, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the Clearwater Dam in Arkansas. For a number of years, the Corps (at the request of farmers downstream) released water over a longer period of time which resulted in extended flooding. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (who owned and managed the flooded land) sued the United States, claiming that the extended flooding was a "taking" of property without compensation under the Fifth Amendment because the flooding damaged or destroyed more than 18 million board feet of timber. The Supreme Court ruled that flooding need not be permanent to be considered a taking; even temporary takings may be subject to compensation. The practical impact of this decision is that the government may need to compensate a landowner for takings even when the taking is temporary, although it will depend upon the frequency and duration.
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