Iowa Supreme Court Rules on State Issues in Des Moines Water Works Case

An update last week at the farmdoc daily blog by┬áJonathan Coppess (“Dead Zones & Drinking Water: Update on the DMWW Lawsuit“) stated that, “On January 27, 2017, the three Iowa drainage districts sued by the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) over nitrates in the drinking water supply won a significant victory in a decision by the Iowa Supreme Court. This article follows previous discussions about the nutrient loss issues and the DMWW lawsuit with a review of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision. The Major Pleadings, Orders and Decisions can all be found on Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation website.”

Mr. Coppes provided this succinct recap of ruling handed down by the Iowa Supreme Court, “In short, the Iowa Supreme Court responded that Iowa drainage districts possess immunity from damages claims and immunity from equitable remedies under Iowa law. The Iowa Supreme Court also answered that DMWW as one subdivision of state government cannot sue another subdivision of state government claiming protections under the Iowa Constitution, and that this also held true for the claims of a taking of DMWW property.”

Last week’s farmdoc update also pointed out that, “The Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on the four questions certified to it by the Federal District Court was a significant victory for the drainage districts and a setback for DMWW. The conclusions of the court, however, only applied to the state law claims. The court explicitly emphasized that its decision did not relate to the Federal claims under the Clean Water Act. As such, the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision was a victory for the drainage districts but not a complete one. It remains to be seen how the Federal court will decide on the CWA claims and DMWW’s novel argument that the drainage infrastructure constitutes a point source, removing it from the agricultural storm water exemption in the statute.”

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