Chicken farmer sues FEMA for flooding his property

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Jul 15, 2009

TEXARKANA, Ark. � An Arkansas chicken farmer claims a neighboring FEMA trailer storage lot is causing his land to flood and is hurting his poultry business.

According to plaintiff Ronald Buck, the Federal Emergency Management Agency leased property from an airport in Hope, Ark., so it could store thousands of mobile homes and travel trailers. In preparing the site, FEMA had the land graded.

However Buck claims the grading of the trailer lot now causes his adjacent property to flood with even the smallest amount of rain.

Buck says he has requested that FEMA take action to prevent the excessive water flow, but the government agency has not currently taken any actions.

After filing his claim in writing and waiting six months for a remedy, Buck filed suit against FEMA and the city of Hope on July 13 in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

According to court records, FEMA had the south end of the airport property graded by adding crushed rock and Geotech fabric.

Immediately or shortly after the grading was complete Buck states that his property, which is located to the south of the airport property, began to flood.

Prior to the grading, the rainwater had stayed upon the airport property until it had evaporated or percolated into the soil. After the grading, the rainwater was collected and channeled down through Buck's property.

Water flows through a creek running through the western portion of Buck's property and flows through a drainage ditch on the eastern portion of his property. The increased water flow causes the ditch and the creek to overflow each of their banks.

The flooding threatens chicken laying houses and at least six broiler houses located on Buck's property.

The plaintiff argues the flooding and deposit of silt and other materials has significantly reduced the market value and stigmatized his property.

Buck states that the flooding caused him to pay for a new road to access his chicken houses in November 2007, but five months later the road was destroyed by floodwaters.

Buck immediately spent more money to build a new road so Tyson Poultry Inc. could access his chicken houses.

Causes of action filed against the defendants include nuisance, inverse condemnation, trespass and negligence.

Buck is seeking damages for "property damage, including a stigma to and diminution in fair market value of his real property," out of pocket expenses, including the cost relating to the construction of the new roads, punitive damages, costs of suit and pre and post-judgment interest.

In addition, Buck is asking the court to issue an injunction to require the defendants to cease the discharging of surface water onto his property.

Texarkana attorneys Don W. Capshaw, Richard A. Adams, Michael R. Unger, and Corey D. McGaha of the law firm Patton Roberts, PLLC are representing the plaintiff.

The plaintiff is requesting a trial by jury.

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes will preside over the litigation.

Case No 4:2009cv04072

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