High court rules dike floodgates be kept closed in southwestern Japan

© Kyodo News

A Japanese high court nullified Friday a 2010 ruling that ordered the state to open the floodgates of a dike in southwestern Japan, in a protracted legal battle between the central government and local fishers over a state-run land reclamation project.

The Fukuoka High Court reviewed the case involving the dike at Isahaya Bay in Nagasaki Prefecture after the top court asked it to do so in September 2019.

The floodgates of the 7-kilometer-long dike, enclosing part of the Ariake Sea, have been shut since 1997 for the project, which created 670 hectares of farmland and a reservoir for use in farming. The state has said the reclamation also helps protect local communities from flood damage.

Local fishermen have filed lawsuits requesting the state to open the gates, claiming the closure had a negative impact on their catch. They said they will appeal the latest high court ruling.

The state has faced contradicting court decisions over the Isahaya dike and filed a suit in 2014, demanding the ruling finalized in 2010 be nullified.

The Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the state in 2018 to nullify the 2010 decision before the Supreme Court scrapped it and sent the case back to the high court in 2019, citing a change in the situation over time.

The latest high court decision may lead to the unification of past legal decisions on the case to rule in favor of the central government. There have also been finalized rulings that support keeping the gates shut.

In the trial, the government claimed the amount of catch around Isahaya Bay has been on the rise in recent years and thus there is no need to open the gates, but the argument was contested by the local fishermen.