technical aspects of existing levees, to who has the authority to ensure levees are adequately designed, constructed, and maintained, to responsibilities for the consequences when levees overtop or fail. The complex levee ownership and maintenance issues in the Sacramento District provide a good example (see Box 3-9). A fundamental concern is that there is no comprehensive, easily accessible national listing of all flood-protection levees.
This would provide crucial information in informing decision makers in deciding which levees may be adequate for the areas they protect, which are not, which might be candidates for continued investment, and which are simply piles of dirt created over the years to reduce floods on farmland or other low-lying areas.
As a first step toward an inventory, Congress provided $30 million in emergency supplemental funds to the Corps in 2005 to begin an inventory of levees within the Corps portfolio (which includes federally maintained levees, plus all levees qualified to be included in the Corps rehabilitation program under Public Law 84-99). Some estimates are that the federally owned fraction may be as low as 10 percent of levees across the nation (National Committee on Levee Safety, 2009). Additional funding has been provided so that the Corps now has a listing, location, ownership, and general condition of the roughly 2,000 miles of federally owned and maintained levees, as well as the 12,000 or so miles that were federally built and locally maintained and in the federal “system” (P.L. 84-99 program). Some estimates suggest that there are perhaps another 100,000 miles of levees in the United States whose location, ownership, and condition are largely unknown. The Corps has asked states to seek data to add whatever levee information they might have to the inventory, which may add some more information to the database, but likely will be limited in nature. It is unclear what portion of the 100,000 miles even warrants inclusion in the inventory.
Funding Issues and Options
The Corps program has been undergoing significant changes in response to the National Dam Safety Act (which was passed as part of WRDA, 1996) and