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Policy Statement 529 - Levee Certification


Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on February 13, 2017 
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on June 5, 2017 
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) amend its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulation at 44 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) 65.10 by removing the term "certification" and its associated definition in 44 C.F.R. 65.2 and replacing it with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) EC 1110-2-6067 term "NFIP Levee System Evaluation."


Currently, in order for FEMA to accredit a levee on its NFIP maps, either a Professional Engineer must certify that the system complies with all the requirements established by FEMA at 44 CFR 65.10, or a federal agency with levee design and construction qualifications may certify that the levee has been adequately designed and constructed to provide protection against the base flood elevation. As currently applied, 44 CFR 65.10 could mislead the public with respect to public safety with the public believing that a certified levee provides "protection" to a higher degree than is actually the case. A statement that a levee is designed in accordance with the requirements of 65.10 should be used only for flood insurance requirements, not in regard to "health and safety" protection. As currently phrased, 44 CFR 65.10 could place the engineer in serious ethical and legal jeopardy. This requirement is contrary to the ASCE Canon of Ethics and good public policy.

Levee structures work in conjunction with other mitigation measures, such as, local evacuation planning, land use restrictions, building codes, pump stations and other flood risk strategies, to reduce risks. To communicate a clearer picture of the residual risk, and to credit risk reduction mitigation, there needs to be a mechanism in place that effectively communicates that residual risk remains, even for a levee that meets the requirements of 44 CFR 65.10. 

ASCE agrees with the decision of the USACE to use the phrase "NFIP levee system evaluation" to emphasize that EC 1110-2-6067 is focused on the complete levee system's status with regard to requirements of both 44 CFR 65.10 and USACE guidelines. 


A fundamental canon of the Code of Ethics of ASCE declares that engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. The solution to levee safety and structural and non-structural flood-risk reduction extends to effectively communicating actual risks and minimizing the inappropriate use of such terms as "certification" and "protection." Levee accreditation under the FEMA regulation is a technical finding for the NFIP for insurance rating that is not in any way a representation that any accredited levee will provide for the safety, health, and welfare of the public.

ASCE Policy Statement 529
First Approved 2009