This page highlights the requirements, responsibilities, and impacts of constructing or restoring levees. This page is intended for communities, states and federal agencies that plan on constructing or restoring levees.
As administrator of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for assessing flood hazards and related risks and providing 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 is not responsible for building, maintaining, operating or certifying levee systems. FEMA does, however, develop and enforce the regulatory and procedural requirements that are used to determine whether a completed levee system should be credited with providing 1%-annual-chance flood protection and mapped accordingly on a FIRM.
These requirements are documented in Section 65.10 of the NFIP regulations and in FEMA's Guidelines and Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping, developed to clarify the regulatory and procedural requirements for FEMA contractors and mapping partners. FEMA relies on federal, state and local agencies and private levee owners to provide them with the required data and documentation on levee systems so that the hazards and risks in levee-impacted areas may be presented accurately on the maps and related products.
FEMA also develops and enforces the regulatory and procedural requirements for levee systems that are being constructed for the first time or that are being restored to provide 1-percent-annual-chance flood protection. These requirements are presented in Section 61.12 and Section 65.14 of the NFIP regulations and in the previously referenced Guidelines and Standards. As with completed levee systems, FEMA relies on federal, state and local agencies to provide data and documentation regarding the new and restored levee systems.
Communities, state agencies and federal agencies may construct new 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 a project to restore the flood protection capability of a levee system that had previously been credited with providing a 1%-annual-chance level of flood protection to that level of protection, thereby reducing the flood risk to the people and structures located in levee-impacted areas.
When communities, state agencies and federal agencies undertake such projects to provide a 1%-annual-chance level of flood protection, they likely will want to submit the appropriate data and documentation to FEMA, so that FEMA may present updated, accurate flood hazard and risk information on the maps and related documents. The required data and documentation will vary, depending on the type of determination that the community would like FEMA to make regarding the project and the flood insurance risk zone designation that the community would like FEMA to include on the effective FIRM for that community.
Before deciding on these options, however, it is important for communities to know the requirements, responsibilities and impacts that these options will have on community residents and business owners.
FEMA issues “adequate progress” determinations for flood control system construction projects that, once completed, may significantly limit the area of a community that will be included in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) identified on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The SFHA, also known as the high-risk area, is the area that will be inundated by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood.
For FEMA to consider issuing an “adequate progress” determination, FEMA must receive a written application from the community documenting that certain project financing considerations and project construction milestones have been met. Such projects reduce but do not eliminate, the risk of flooding to people and structures in “levee-impacted” areas.
If a community is engaged in the process of restoring a flood protection system that was originally constructed using federal funds, credited with providing 1-percent-annual-chance flood protection on the effective FIRM and decertified by a federal agency responsible for flood protection design or construction, the CEO of a community or other responsible community official may submit certain data and documentation and request, in writing, that FEMA make a "flood protection restoration" determination. If the data and documentation that are submitted with the request support such a determination, FEMA will issue a written flood protection restoration determination and will change the FIRM in the levee-impacted area to show it as Zone AR.
Additional information on data, documentation and mapping requirements is provided in the Useful Resources below and on the Flood Protection Restoration (Zone AR) Requirements page.
The levee resources listed below provide more information on regulatory requirements, procedural requirements and benefits of adequate progress and flood protection restoration determinations.
- Flood Protection Restoration: Zone AR Requirements Summary for State and Local Officials
- Flood Protection Restoration: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Zone AR Flood Insurance Risk Zone Designation
- Adequate Progress on Flood Protection Systems: Zone A99 Requirements Summary for State and Local Officials
- Guidelines and Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping
- NFIP Regulations
For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library.
- Call (1-877) FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 6:30 pm (Eastern Time)
- Email FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com
- Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time)
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