Recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program ...From the National Committee on Levee Safety

Frequently Asked Questions

The National Committee on Levee Safety

  1. What is the National Committee on Levee Safety? Who is on the NCLS?
  2. What is the status of the NCLS's report and recommendations?
  3. How does the Report reflect the feedback the NCLS received? How did the NCLS involve stakeholders in developing their recommendations?
  4. What is the NCLS doing now?
  5. Levee safety is important; how can I help establish a National Levee Safety Program?

5. What is the National Committee on Levee Safety? Who is on the NCLS?

The NCLS was created by Congress and authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, Section IX, to "develop recommendations for a national levee safety program, including a strategic plan for implementation of the program." The NCLS includes representatives of state governments, local/regional governments, the private sector and two federal agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency). A designee for the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) chairs the NCLS.

The NCLS adopted the vision of "an involved public and reliable levee systems working as part of an integrated approach to protect people and property from floods." In their report entitled Recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program: A Report to Congress from the National Committee on Levee Safety (January 2009), the NCLS presented 20 recommendations that, when taken together, will establish the basis for a comprehensive and effective National Levee Safety Program.

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6. What is the status of the NCLS's report and recommendations?

The NCLS presented their findings and recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program in a draft Report to Congress, Recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program: A Report to Congress from the National Committee on Levee Safety, completed in January 2009. The House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment held a hearing on the recommendations in May 2009. The Office of Management and Budget also has reviewed the report.

The NCLS continues to work to provide further detail on some of its recommendations so that Congress can be as well-positioned as possible to create a National Levee Safety Program. As with all efforts that involve complex policy questions, extensive intergovernmental coordination, and significant technical standards development, the NCLS continues to work to identify and communicate to Congress which recommendations need legislation and which recommendations can begin moving towards implementation. The NCLS also intends to solicit additional feedback from both technical experts and stakeholders. The core of the recommendations made in the January 2009 Report to Congress, and the reasoning behind them, remain unchanged.

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7. How does the Report reflect the feedback the NCLS received? How did the NCLS involve stakeholders in developing their recommendations?

At the same time that the NCLS was created, a review committee representing interests from federal, state, local, and tribal agencies, interest groups, and technical societies also was created. During the three-month report development process, the NCLS held two review committee meetings to solicit feedback on progress to date. The first review committee meeting focused on the scoping of the report and whether the NCLS was asking the right questions. The second review committee meeting sought comment on high-level recommendations. The NCLS will continue to periodically seek advice from the review committee. The NCLS presented high-level draft recommendations and received comments at a webinar (virtual meeting), attended by about 300 people. The NCLS is now working to seek reaction and input to its recommendations to a broader set of stakeholders by conducting regional workshops as well as targeted outreach toward key implementers such as state, tribes, local governments, and levee operators.

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8. What is the NCLS doing now?

The NCLS is:

  1. Working to further detail some recommendations to best position Congress to act to create a National Levee Safety Program, including:
  • Examining governance options for a National Levee Safety Program.
  • Further detailing benefits and costs of a National Levee Safety Program.
  • Expanding the NCLS's understanding of the complexities of the state of the law and jurisprudence relating to levee liability for local communities, states, and the private sector.
  1. Supporting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) efforts to implement actions recommended in the NCLS's Report to Congress (January 2009) with existing funding and authorities, such as:
  • Expanding the USACE National Levee Database to include voluntarily submitted data from states to improve the understanding of the number, location, and condition of the nation's levees, necessary to fully understand the nation's risk. The NCLS's recommendations call for a one-
    time, federally funded inventory and inspection of all the nation's levees, with that data incorporated in the National Levee Database.
  • Further developing the important foundational aspects of several technical recommendations including: levee safety standards; a hazard potential classification system; and tolerable risk guidelines. It is the goal of the NCLS that by working with USACE to develop these standards and guidelines for federal levees, the groundwork will have been set for eventual creation and adoption of national standards. National standards require new authorities and funding.
  • Working with FEMA and USACE to begin identifying and linking existing programs and websites related to levee safety, and to promote a more consistent use of terminology, messages, and approaches across the federal government.
  1. Planning future outreach, including targeted efforts for states and tribes, to gain additional feedback on the design of participating levee safety programs.

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9. Levee safety is important; how can I help establish a National Levee Safety Program?

Learn more about the recommendations for creating a comprehensive and effective National Levee Safety Program, and share that information with others.

  • Attend a regional stakeholder workshop. The NCLS is conducting several workshops across the country to share information about the recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program and gather additional feedback, and you are invited. See the Events page on the website for details about upcoming events or join the mailing list.
  • If you support the recommendations or have questions or concerns, let us know and reach out to your local officials to share your support. The NCLS is working to lay the groundwork for the creation of the National Levee Safety Program, and ideas for improving levee safety nationwide are welcome.
  • If you are a member of a professional organization knowledgeable in levee safety issues, we would appreciate your engagement and support. Each element of the National Levee Safety Program is important, and you are welcome to reference and support the recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program in your own interface with stakeholders and decision makers.
  • Understand your levee and your flood risk: Be informed. Be educated. Be prepared. Be involved.

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Photo of Lupines on the levee.
Lupines on a Sacramento River levee in Sacramento, California.

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Test Your Levee IQ

What percentage of the approximately 15,000 miles of levees in US Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program are operated and maintained by local sponsors?

  1. 10%
  2. 25%
  3. 65%
  4. 85%

Answers to this, and past, questions.