The Iowa Supreme Court has weighed in on a lawsuit against the state over the relocation of Highway 63 in northeast Iowa. The Iowa Department of Transportation built a four lane Highway 63 bypass around the city of Denver in 1994. The bypass included a bridge over a creek on the west side of the city.
In May 1999 a large amount of rain fell and created a flood which damaged 35 homes and 34 businesses. A federal study later found the construction of the bypass caused the floodwaters to be higher because only bypassed the creek and not the rest of the area where water flowed into the creek. The D.O.T. in 2004 modified the bridge to bypass the entire floodway. Several homeowners sued the state over the 1999 flooding damage.
The district court ruled in favor of the state and the appeals court upheld the ruling based on immunity given to the state when proper planning is undertaken for a project. But the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the ruling, saying the state’s bridge was not designed to deal with the entire floodway, and ignored regulations against building a structure that encroached on a floodway. It sent that portion of the case back to district court.
The Supreme Court did uphold the lower court ruling turning down the flooded residents claims for damages due to a permanent devaluation of their property as it said the state addressed that issue by rebuilding the bridge to prevent future flooding.