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), 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 reducing the hazard from the base (1-percent-annual-chance) flood 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. The Guidelines and Standards were 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 the required data and documentation on levee systems so that the hazards 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 being restored to reduce the hazard from the base flood. 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 on the new and restored levee systems.
Community, State, and Federal Responsibilities
Communities or state and federal agencies may construct new levee systems or modify existing systems to address flood hazards and reduce flood risks to structures and people in that location. They may also take on a project to restore the capability of a levee system that had been credited with reducing the hazard from a base (1-percent-annual-chance) flood. In doing so, they reduce the flood hazard for the people and structures in the areas affected by that levee.
When communities or state and federal agencies undertake such projects, they are likely to want to submit the appropriate data and documentation for FEMA to prepare updated, accurate flood hazard information on the maps and related documents. The required data and documentation will vary, depending on the type of determination the community would like FEMA to make and the flood zone designation that the community would like FEMA to include on the effective FIRM.
Before deciding on these options, however, it is important for communities to know the requirements, responsibilities, and effects each option will have on community residents and business owners.
Levees System Construction (Zone A99) Requirements
FEMA issues “adequate progress” determinations for flood control system construction projects that, once completed, may significantly limit the areas included in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). SFHAs, also known as high-hazard areas, are the areas that will be inundated by the base (1-percent-annual-chance) flood. Such projects reduce, but do not eliminate, the risk of flooding to people and structures in levee-impacted areas.
To consider issuing an “adequate progress” determination, FEMA must receive a written application from the community, documenting that it has met certain project financing considerations and project construction milestones. Find information on the data, documentation, and mapping requirements for Zone A99 in the Useful Resources below and on the Adequate Progress (Zone A99) Requirements page.
Levee System Restoration (Zone AR) Requirements
If a community is actively restoring a flood control system that was once credited with reducing the hazard from the base (1-percent-annual-chance) flood on the effective FIRM but has been decertified by a federal agency responsible for flood hazard projects design or construction, the Chief Executive Officer or other responsible community official may submit certain data and documentation and request, in writing, that FEMA determine whether the levee work is eligible for a flood control restoration zone. If the data and documentation submitted with the request support it, FEMA will issue a written determination and will change the FIRM to show the levee-impacted area as Zone AR.
Find information on the data, documentation, and mapping requirements for Zone AR in the Useful Resources section 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 the benefits of levee system adequate progress (Zone A99) and (Zone AR) determinations.
- Flood Control Restoration: Zone AR Requirements Summary for State and Local Officials
- Adequate Progress on Flood Control Systems: Zone A99 Requirements Summary for State and Local Officials
- Guidelines and Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping
- NFIP Regulations within the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR)
- Section 59.1 Definitions of National Flood Insurance Program Terms
- Section 60.3 Floodplain Management Criteria
- Section 61.12 National Flood Insurance Program Rates
- Section 65.9 Review and Response by the (FEMA) Administrator
- Section 65.10 Mapping of Areas Protected by Levee Systems
- Section 65.14 Remapping of Areas for which Local Flood Protection Systems no Longer Provide Base Flood Protection
For More Information
For additional information on levees, levee risk, levee safety, and mapping, visit FEMA’s Levee Resources Library.