The Iowa Supreme Court has issued a ruling that has an impact on water and railroads. In the spring of 2007 Union Pacific workers noticed a hole in the roadbed under their tracks in Hardin County and filled the hole with rock.

The railroad did not know the hole was caused by the collapse of a nearly 100-year-old clay drainage tile, and the rock repair caused water drained by the tile to back up and flood farm ground. The local drainage district fixed the broken tile and sent a bill to the railroad.

The total bill — including crop losses — was over $100,000. The railroad refused to pay, saying state law requires them to repair bridges and culverts, and a tile is not a culvert.

The district court sided with the drainage district and said the railroad had to pay. But the Iowa Supreme Court ruling says the legislature was very specific in making the railroads responsible for bridges and culverts, and did not use the word drains to cover repairs to any pipes that drain water. For that reason the court said a tile is not a culvert and the railroad is not required to pay for tile repairs.

The court information says there could be hundreds of such tiles under the railroad bed that will be impacted by the ruling.

See the complete ruling here: Tile ruling PDF