Levee System Information for Stakeholders


The United States has thousands of miles of levee systems—usually earthen embankments designed and constructed in accordance with sound engineering practices to contain, control, or divert the flow of water to provide some level of protection from flooding. Some levee systems date back as far as 150 years; some levee systems were completed recently or are underway. Some levee systems were built for agricultural purposes, and they provide flood protection and flood-loss reduction primarily for farm fields and other land used for agricultural purposes. Other systems—urban levee systems—were built to provide flood protection and flood-loss reduction for population centers and the industrial, commercial, and residential facilities within them.

Levee systems are designed to provide a specific level of flood protection. Agricultural levee systems provide a level of protection that is appropriate based on the value of the assets being protected. Urban levee systems, because they are designed to protect urban areas, have typically been built to higher standards.

No levee system provides full protection from all flooding events to the people and structures located behind it. Thus, some level of flood risk exists in these levee-impacted areas.

Map Modernization and Levee Systems

As the Federal agency responsible for administering the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identifies flood hazards, assesses flood risks, and provides appropriate flood hazard and risk information to communities nationwide. This information is provided to communities in the form of maps, called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). FEMA has an effort underway, called Flood Map Modernization (Map Mod), to update and modernize the existing FIRMs for most of the United States.

Levee systems have been identified in over one-fourth of the counties that will receive modernized maps—Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs)—as part of Map Mod. Therefore, FEMA has been working, and continues to work with Federal, State, and local professionals and technical partners to determine the flood protection and risk-reduction capabilities of the Nation's levee systems and to accurately reflect the flood hazard and risk in levee-impacted areas on the DFIRMs.

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Levee System Construction and Restoration Projects

Communities, State agencies, and Federal agencies may construct new levee systems or may improve existing levee systems to address flood hazards and reduce flood risks to structures and people in a particular community or particular area of a state. Likewise, these communities and agencies may undertake projects to restore the flood protection capability of levee systems that had previously been credited with providing a 1-percent-annual-chance level of flood protection to that level of protection, thereby reducing the flood risk to the people and structures located in the levee-impacted areas.

When communities, State agencies, and Federal agencies undertake such projects to provide a 1-percent-annual-chance level of flood protection, they will likely want to submit appropriate supporting data and documentation to FEMA, so that FEMA may accredit the levee systems where appropriate and present the updated, accurate flood hazard and risk information on the maps and related documents. Information about the options available as well as the requirements, responsibilities, and impacts that these options will have on community residents and business owners is provided on the Levee System Construction and Restoration Projects page.

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Interagency Levee Policy Review Committee

As part of the Map Mod effort, FEMA has been revisiting existing mapping-related regulations and procedures, including levee-related policies, regulations, and procedures. To assist in this effort, FEMA formed the Interagency Levee Policy Review Committee in September 2005. The Committee undertook a comprehensive assessment of the NFIP regulations and FEMA procedures related to the evaluation and mapping of levee systems. Committee participants included technical and policy issue experts from a number of Federal agencies.

At the close of its deliberations, the Committee delivered a well-thought-out report, titled The National Levee Challenge: Levees and the FEMA Flood Map Modernization Initiative, to FEMA. The Committee report provides a series of recommended actions for FEMA to consider as a means of addressing the challenge of assessing the flood protection and risk-reduction capabilities of levee systems and accurately assessing the flood risk posed to citizens and property in levee-impacted areas.

Specific actions taken by FEMA to address Committee recommendations and other stakeholder feedback will be announced on the Committee report page. Therefore, interested parties may wish to bookmark the Committee report page for future reference.

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Find Information for Stakeholder Groups

FEMA encourages owners of property in areas that are impacted by levee systems to understand their current flood risk; to learn more about in-progress and planned projects that may have an impact on their flood risk; to consider flood insurance, floodproofing, and other protective measures; and to adhere to local floodplain management regulations and local evacuation procedures. FEMA also encourages other Map Mod and NFIP stakeholders to educate themselves about levee systems, and the risk to people and structures located in levee-impacted areas, by viewing the resources that are accessible through the links below.

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For More Information

For more information or additional assistance:

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 07-Oct-2008 13:08:46 EDT


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