Practice/Industry Group Overview
Husch Blackwell attorneys have specialized in levee and flood control matters since 1929, representing clients in the planning, financing and construction of public infrastructure and flood control systems. We have a unique understanding of the legal and legislative issues surrounding levee and drainage facilities and the entities that build and manage them. Through numerous critical projects, we have consistently and successfully partnered with clients, engineers, financial advisors, the USACE, FEMA and other state and local governments, to develop legal strategies and solve complex legal matters in a cost-effective manner.
Our levee and drainage district clients provide various levels of flood protection for hundreds of thousands of acres of urban and agricultural property and manage hundreds of miles of levees. These clients also manage hundreds of miles of stormwater drainage channels. The value of land and other property protected by our clients’ flood protection improvements exceeds $20 billion. In addition to clients throughout the Midwest and South, we have also handled FEMA regulatory issues in Florida, California and South Carolina.
Scope of Services
- Finding federal funding sources using legislative and administrative means
- Working closely with the USACE on funding, design and construction of federal projects
- Building consensus through communication with community leaders and residents to support projects
- Negotiating intergovernmental agreements with other public entities for development of flood control infrastructure
- Facilitating contract procurement through public bidding and negotiation
- Reducing right-of-way acquisition costs; for example, we worked closely with the USACE to develop standards to allow parking lots on seepage berms, saving our clients millions of dollars in right-of-way costs
- Reducing construction costs; for example, we recognized significant over-design in a levee project, and worked with our client, the USACE and the project engineer to modify the design, saving our client millions of dollars in project costs
- Creating new sources of revenue for construction and maintenance through the benefit assessment process
- Obtaining state and federal wetlands permits
- Structuring and procuring numerous tax-exempt bond issuances and other types of financing for flood control improvement
- Challenging FEMA deaccreditation decisions
- Assisting public and private companies with federal flood plain management regulations
- Coordinating successful levee certification programs and participation in PL 84-99
- Assuring accuracy of proposed updated flood maps
- Pursuing emergency assistance claims and appeals for extraordinary costs and rehabilitation
Our Experience and Political Involvement
Our history in levee and drainage law expands our practice beyond traditional legal matters. Our team is familiar with the unique engineering issues of levee and drainage districts, which allows us to add value by working closely with project engineers. In addition, we recognize the important role of legislators and regulatory department officials in providing access to federal programs and managing flood protection systems. We foster positive working relationships between these officials and our clients. We provide legislative support by drafting, monitoring and commenting on new laws that affect our clients. We work directly with lobbyists who have been retained for this purpose, and our firm’s lobbyists work at the state and federal level in Washington, D.C.
Transactions and Litigation
Attorneys in our group assist our public and private clients in all aspects of flood protection management, including municipal operations, regulatory compliance and finance for capital improvements. We represent our clients in business transactions and litigation, including trial and appellate matters.
FEMA Assistance and Certification
During our representation of levee districts over the past 80 years, we have successfully represented our clients through history-making flood events and guided them in obtaining FEMA emergency assistance and rehabilitation assistance and recertification. Through experience and knowledge of federal law, we assist our clients who are landowners in flood protected areas to comply with FEMA regulations by utilizing federal programs available to maintain flood protection, to obtain flood insurance and to secure property values. We represent over thirty clients who are working with FEMA and the USACE with respect to FEMA’s current remapping efforts.
Assessment of Benefits
Since the flood of 1993, we have represented levee and drainage districts on more than 50 benefit reassessments. We have developed a unique expertise in identifying under-assessed properties and in assessing non-typical property, which should be assessed. Through these benefit assessments, we have generated substantial new sources of revenue for the districts, which have been used to finance flood control projects.
We have represented and are currently representing clients in more than 40 existing and completed flood protection construction projects valued in excess of $1 billion. For these matters, we are involved in every facet of the projects. We work with all federal and state regulatory agencies, as well as with engineering firms on value engineering. We have also handled project cost estimates.
- Represented clients in numerous financings for design and construction of flood protection systems, including 16 tax-exempt bond issuance transactions (since 1993)
- Created alternative financing opportunities using various forms of tax-based incentives in combination with public and private sector funding
- Won numerous cases benefiting flood protection interests, including In the Matter of Fabius River Drainage District, 35 S.W.3d 473 (Mo.App.E.D.2000) and In the Matter of Tri-County Levee District, 42 S.W.3d 779 (Mo.App.E.D.2001). These cases upheld special assessments for flood protection against the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.