PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The judge in a 25-year-old dispute over what caused the 1997 flooding on the Moreau River says he’s likely to rule in favor of the parties that brought the lawsuit against the federal government.

Senior Judge Loren A. Smith from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is presiding over the case, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe et al v. United States of America.

“My leaning is toward the plaintiffs’ position at this point,” Judge Smith told the sides Tuesday morning. He added, “A settlement is much more likely in this case.”

The judge scheduled a conference call for September 12 for the sides to report whether they’ve reached an agreement. If they don’t settle, he’ll set a schedule for a series of post-trial briefs. He wants the case done before 2023.

“I’d like to see this whole thing ended as a case, money paid to the plaintiffs and get back to what they do very well, ranching,” the judge said.

Ashley Carter took the lead role Tuesday representing the U.S. Department of Justice. Marty Jackley of Pierre took the lead role in representing the plaintiffs.

The case as originally filed sought nearly $8.7 million in damages.