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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Flood-Stricken Town Has No Case Over Inaction

(CN) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not have to face a lawsuit over chronic flooding that has plagued Saddle Brook, N.J., a federal judge ruled.

Though the corps launched a $36.5 million flood-control project for northern New Jersey's Saddle River in 1986, the plan has been on hold since the mid-1990s because of hazardous waste contamination, escalating costs and other factors.

Saddle Brook filed a federal complaint in May 2009 against the United States, the corps and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, alleging negligence and breach of contract "for failure to control flooding along the Saddle River."

Subsequently transferred to the Court of Federal Claims, the latest incarnation of the case alleges contract claims against the corps and the government.

Judge Christine Miller dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, finding that Saddle Brook has even "conceded in its response to defendant's motion that no written contract exists between the two parties."

Any allegations about an implied-in-fact contract are "patently insubstantial," the decision states.

Though Saddle Brook said the government made a promise to them about the flood project, "a promise, without more, in not a contract," Miller wrote.

"Plaintiff's complaint provides nothing more than bald assertions that the corps made an agreement with the plaintiff to alleviate the flooding issues along the Saddle River," the decision states.

The court also declined to let Saddle Brook bring the complaint back to the District of New Jersey or any other federal court because the government demonstrated that such institutions lack jurisdiction over the remaining claims.

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