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Living with Levees: Information for Cooperating Technical Partners and Engineers

This page provides levee information and resources detailed for Cooperating Technical Partners (CTPs), engineers, surveyors, and mapping contractors.

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Identifying the Flood Hazard

As the Federal agency that is responsible for administering the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identifies flood hazards through analyses and mapping projects, including flood hazards impacted by levee systems. The information developed through these flood analyses and projects is provided to communities in the form of maps, called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). While FEMA maps flood hazards impacted by levee systems, FEMA does not build, own, or certify levees. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for building and maintaining USACE-owned levees and for inspecting those structures to determine their level of maintenance. States, communities, and private levee owners are responsible for maintaining and operating the levees they own according to specific design criteria.

Levee System Regularory Requirement for Accreditation

Levee systems that are designed to provide flood hazard-reduction from the base (1-percent-annual-chance) flood may be accredited by FEMA, and areas immediately behind them mapped as a moderate-hazard zone on the FIRM. In order for a levee system to be accredited by FEMA and shown on a FIRM as providing flood hazard-reduction from the 1-percent-annual-chance flood, the levee must first be certified by a Professional Engineer, or a Federal agency that designs levees, that it is in compliance with the requirements outlined in Section 65.10 of the NFIP regulations with the appropriate supporting documentation.

If FEMA does not receive the data and documentation required to show compliance with Section 65.10 of the NFIP regulations, FEMA will consider the levee non-accredited – that is, FEMA will not map the levee as providing flood hazard reduction from the 1-percent-annual-chance flood on the impacted FIRM panel(s).

Levee Analysis & Mapping Approach Released

FEMA released its Analysis and Mapping Procedures for Non-Accredited Levees on July 12, 2013. Review additional information available on the Final Levee Analysis and Mapping Approach webpage. Use the tools FEMA has created to better understand the Levee Analysis and Mapping Process, including infographics that describe the approach.

Provisionally Accredited Levees

When a community with an existing accredited levee is being remapped, the levee owner must provide the proper documentation to certify that it still meets at least the minimum Federal requirements. To assist owners who cannot provide FEMA with the required professional engineer-certified data and/or documentation to show the levee continues to provide flood hazard reduction from at least the 1-percent-annual-chance flood, FEMA established the Provisionally Accredited Levee (PAL) designation to facilitate the levee accreditation process. Before FEMA will apply the PAL designation to a levee system, the community or levee owner must sign and submit an agreement indicating the data and documentation required for compliance with Section 65.10 will be provided within a specified timeframe not to exceed 24 months. Additional information on PALs can be found in the Provisionally Accredited Levees Brochure and through the Levee Resources Library.

Finding More Information on Levee System Accreditation and FEMA Guidance on Mapping Levees

FEMA’s guidance and standards related to levees and the accreditation process are available through the Guidelines and Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping page.

To assist community officials and levee owners, FEMA has also developed a “how-to” checklist for floodplain managers and engineers: Meeting the Criteria for Accrediting Levees on NFIP Flood Maps: How-To Guide for Floodplain Managers and Engineers.

A comprehensive catalog of levee-related publications and resources related to accreditation and other levee topics is available at the FEMA Levee Resources Library.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Levee Safety Program and Coordination with FEMA

FEMA and USACE management and staff coordinate closely on levee system issues. On November 13, 2014, the USACE issued a memorandum that provides policy guidance for the inspection of levee systems in the USACE programs. The USACE memorandum helps clarify the responsibilities of USACE and FEMA staff for notifying levee owners of the condition of their levee systems. The USACE memorandum also explains the data required to credit levee systems for reducing the hazard from floods. FEMA and USACE staff collaboratively developed this memorandum and FEMA incorporated this into the Guidance for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping, Levees, to cover situations where levee systems in the USACE program are evaluated for accreditation on FIRMs.

USACE Engineering Circular 1110-2-6067 (USACE Process for the National Flood Insurance Program System Evaluation), issued August 31, 2010 comprehensively outlined the USACE's policy for levee system evaluations preformed by the USACE for FEMA NFIP accreditation of levees. Engineering and Construction Bulletin (ECB) No. 2019-11, issued by July 16, 2019 directs that USACE cease using EC 1110-2-6067 for all new levee evaluations for NFIP mapping purposes initiated after the date of issuance and begun using the process set forth in Appendix B of this ECB or sucessor guidance. As USACE and FEMA move to risk-informed levee evaluation processes, this ECB provides guidance explaining how to transition USACE Levee System Evaluation Reports (LSERs) from the process set forth in EC 1110-2-6067 to USACE accreditation recommendations using risk assessments as outlined in Appendix B. For a comprehensive listing of key USACE documents relating to levee assessment, visit the USACE’s Levee Safety Program web page.

Mapping Requirements for Levee System Construction and Restoration Projects

In the interest of public safety, communities, State agencies, and Federal agencies sometimes construct new levee systems to address flood hazards and reduce flood risks to the people and structures in certain communities or areas within a state. In other situations, communities, State agencies, or Federal agencies will undertake a project to restore the flood hazard reduction capabilities of a levee system that had previously provided 1-percent-annual-chance flood hazard reduction, but which had been found to no longer provide this level of flood hazard reduction. FEMA has established regulatory and procedural requirements for the mapping of areas impacted by levee system construction and restoration projects. The Levee System Construction and Restoration Projects home page contains information and resources related to FEMA regulatory and procedural requirements. This page outlines the benefits of including FEMA flood control restoration zones and adequate progress determinations, shown as Zone AR and Zone A99, respectively, on FIRMs.

Get Assistance

Answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions are provided for the following user groups: homeowners, engineers, surveyors and architects, insurance professionals and lenders, and floodplain managers.

For additional information or assistance, contact a Map Specialist in the FEMA Mapping and Insurance eXchange (FMIX) through the following methods:

  • Call (877) FEMA MAP (877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 7:00 pm (ET)
  • Email
  • Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (ET)

Subscribe to receive updates on FEMA Flood Hazard Mapping activities, including updates on levee-related activities, via e-mail.

Last Updated: 
06/05/2020 - 08:41