Army Corps of Engineers Reports Unacceptable Levees Highest in West

February 2, 2007

Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans Flood was a wakeup call to the nation on the vulnerability of the nation’s levee systems. So after completing its notification of levee owners, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released the locations of the levee units that have unacceptable maintenance inspection ratings.

The West had the lion’s share of vulnerable levee systems, with 33 in California, 19 in Washington, 5 in Oregon, 3 in Hawaii, 2 in Alaska, 2 in Colorado, 3 in New Mexico and one in Idaho. In contrast, Florida had four levees with unacceptable maintenance inspection ratings, and Massachusetts had five.

An unacceptable maintenance rating means a levee has one or more deficient conditions that can reasonably be foreseen to prevent the project from functioning as designed, according to the Corps. Examples of maintenance deficiencies include animal burrows, erosion, tree growth, movement of floodwalls or faulty culvert conditions.

“Levee safety is a shared responsibility with our local, state and other federal partners,” said Maj. Gen. Don T. Riley, Director of Civil Works. “Our ultimate goals are reduced risk and increased public safety through an informed public, empowered to take responsibility for its safety. We are working closely with federal, state and local partners to inform the public so they understand the risks associated with living and working behind levees. This is best accomplished at the local level where levee activity most directly impacts the public,” he said.

The Corps inspects some 2,000 levee units, or 13,000 miles on an annual basis, which levees include projects built and maintained by the Corps; projects built by the Corps and transferred to a local owner to operate and maintain; and non-federal projects built by a local community. The latter two project categories, if properly maintained and operated by the owner, are eligible for federal rehabilitation assistance.

After conducting the inspections and entering the data, local Corps District offices have reviewed the results with the local levee owner responsible for operations and maintenance. The Corps said it wanted to ensure the levee owner understands the deficiencies and the consequences if not corrected.

“We considered it prudent and proper to speak directly with levee owners prior to releasing the information to national media outlets,” Riley said.

The national levee inventory data base is updated regularly, and therefore subject to change as new inspections take place and the levee owner addresses maintenance deficiencies, the Corps indicated.

“We understand the challenge this presents to local communities,” Riley said. “We will be working with our partner agencies at all levels during a correction period of one year to allow local owners time to address project maintenance deficiencies.”

The list of levee units may be viewed at

For more details about the National Levee Safety Program, a fact sheet is available at:

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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