Approved by the Energy, Environment and Water Policy Committee on March 31, 2011
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 13, 2011
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 30, 2011
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the enactment of federal and state legislation and regulations to protect the health and welfare of citizens from the catastrophic effects of levee failures. Congress should enact legislation to establish a national levee safety program that is modeled on the successful National Dam Safety Program. The federal government must accept the responsibility for the safety of all federally funded and regulated levees. Similarly, state governments must enact legislation authorizing an appropriate entity to undertake a program of levee safety for non-federal levees. The act should require the federal and state governments to conduct mandatory safety inspections for all levees and establish a national inventory of levees. The National Flood Insurance Program should map all areas potentially flooded by a levee breach and identify these as special flood areas to better communicate risks and encourage affected property owners to seek appropriate protection.
There is no national safety program for federal or state levees. Many privately built levees are deeded to local governments or associations who do not maintain them or even recognize the risks. There is no dependable catalog of the location, ownership, condition, or hazard potential of levees in the United States. Flooding from Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans in August 2005, demonstrated the need for consistent, up-to-date standards for levees based upon reliable engineering data on their location, function, and condition.
The nation must use all the tools available to reduce damages from hurricanes and major storms. This means the use of structural methods, such as levees, floodwalls, and dams, but also non-structural approaches, such as flood-resistant design, voluntary relocation of homes and businesses from flood-prone areas, the revitalization of wetlands for storage, and the use of natural barriers to storm surges.
ASCE Policy Statement 511
First Approved in 2006