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Stakeholder Committee Report on Levee Systems

This page presents background information and useful resources pertaining to the Interagency Levee Policy Review Committee and the report they delivered in late 2006. The rationale behind the report, which was produced to describe levee regulatory policies, is noted and a followup plan to the interagency review is also highlighted.

Read general information about levee systems on the Levee System Introduction page.

In late 2006, a stakeholder committee—the Interagency Levee Policy Review Committee—delivered a report, titled The National Levee Challenge: Levees and the FEMA Flood Map Modernization Initiative, to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Mitigation Directorate [now called the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA)]. The Committee report contains a series of recommended actions for the Mitigation Directorate to consider. Those actions include 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 located landward of (i.e., behind), or otherwise impacted by, those levee systems. In this report, the Committee:

  • Examines and recommends changes to current FEMA levee policies, as stated in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations and FEMA guidance documents;
  • Identifies outreach and public awareness challenges related to the remapping of levee-affected areas and proposes approaches to deal with these challenges; and
  • Proposes cooperative development by FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) of a Geographic Information System-based levee inventory.

Background

To properly evaluate the flood protection capabilities of levee systems, FEMA has issued regulations and established operational procedures for FEMA staff, contractors, and mapping partners that are actively involved in the flood hazard mapping program carried out in support of the NFIP. The FEMA regulatory requirements for evaluating the flood protection capabilities of levee systems and the mapping of flood hazards for levee-impacted areas appear in Section 65.10 of the NFIP regulations. The FEMA procedural requirements for the evaluation and mapping of levee-affected areas are documented in Appendix H of FEMA's Guidelines and Specifications for Flood Hazard Mapping Partners and in FEMA Procedure Memorandums issued to clarify the requirements and procedures in Appendix H.

In September 2005, FEMA created the Interagency Levee Policy Review Committee, which undertook a comprehensive assessment of the NFIP regulations and FEMA procedures related to the evaluation and mapping of levee systems and levee-impacted areas. Committee participants included technical and policy issue experts from the following Federal agencies:

  • USACE
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • National Weather Service
  • National Ocean Survey
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The participation of these various Federal agencies as well as State, regional, and local agency officials and professional associations was critical to the process because FEMA is not responsible for the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of levee systems and comparable flood protection structures. Likewise, FEMA is not responsible for implementing or enforcing State and local floodplain management regulations. Therefore, as part of the deliberative process, Committee members obtained input and feedback from other active participants in NFIP mapping and related floodplain management efforts, as well as active participants in levee system design, construction, and maintenance.

Rationale for Committee Review of Levee System Regulations and Procedures

As part of its Flood Map Modernization (Map Mod) effort, FEMA has been revisiting many of the existing mapping-related regulations and procedures. FEMA placed a priority on the review and, if necessary, revision of levee-related policies, regulations, and procedures for the following reasons:

  • Many levee systems have not been evaluated for compliance with Section 65.10 of the NFIP regulations, which went into effect in 1986.
  • Many other levee systems have not been evaluated for a number of years, and conditions along the affected flooding sources have changed.
  • Many levee systems that are currently shown as providing protection from the 1-percent-annual-chance flood on NFIP flood maps may no longer provide this level of flood protection and should be upgraded to comply with the minimum Federal standards.
  • Operation and maintenance of levee systems may not get the attention from levee owners/operators that is needed.
  • Once levee systems are shown as providing 1-percent-annual-chance flood protection on NFIP flood maps, experience has shown that levee-impacted areas are more likely to be developed as floodplain management restrictions are lessened and mandatory purchase requirements for flood insurance are removed.
  • When storm events cause larger floods than the levee systems are designed to control, catastrophic damage and loss of life are often the grim realities that result; people who live or work in these levee-impacted areas need to be aware of the potential risk of the levee systems failing or being overtopped.

Planned Followup to Committee Report

The FEMA Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration staff will consider the Committee's recommendations, as well as feedback from other key stakeholders, carefully as they design and implement a workable solution to the challenge posed to both the Map Mod effort and the Nation by levee systems. The solution likely will include modifications to, or clarifications of, existing NFIP regulations and FEMA operational procedures as well as a broad-based communication and stakeholder education effort. Some of the recommendations received to date could potentially have implications on other areas of the NFIP. Therefore, extensive coordination will need to take place—both internally within FEMA, and externally with key stakeholder and user groups—before solutions are implemented.

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

Useful Resources

The Committee Report and an array of other useful FEMA, NFIP, and Map Mod resources are located in the FEMA Library.

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 Map Information eXchange (FMIX) through the following methods:

  • Call (1-877) FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) Monday through Friday, 8:00 am through 6:30 pm (Eastern Time)
  • Email the FMIX
  • Chat with a Map Specialist Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time)

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Last Updated: 
09/12/2016 - 12:59