After the levee failures in New Orleans in 2005, Congress attached levee safety legislation to the Water Resources Development Act. Called in short, the National Levee Safety Act of 2007, the legislation ordered the Secretary of the Army to administer reforms and new programs including the creation of a:
1. national data base of federal and non-federal levees,
2. first-ever nationwide levee safety program,
3. levee safety inspection tool using global positioning technology,
4. sixteen member levee safety committee, and
5. program to inform the public of the risks of living near levees.
These new initiatives were to be completed from 2008 through 2013. Section 9006 of the legislation authorized the appropriation to the Secretary of $20 million for each year.
The new legislation directly affects the nearly two thirds of the American population protected by levees – more than 201 million people.
Items 1, 3, 4 and 5 were implemented in approximately 2008 and 2009. But item #2, the levee safety program is just now getting launched by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
It’s Levees.org’s understanding that local levee district personnel can raise concerns and make comments regarding levees and floodwalls built by the USACE, and that these comments are recorded and stored digitally by the USACE in a data base nicknamed “DrCHK.” We also understand that this information is not publicly available. We believe an organization other than the USACE should be the organization that collects, records and stores this information.
It is Levees.org’s hope is that the USACE will adhere to its own directive to alert the public when it finds that levee maintenance by any local levee boards in any state has been unacceptable or minimally acceptable. In 2018, our organization had to file a request under FOIA for levee ratings that should have been readily and easily accessible to the public.
We hope that the first ever National Levee Safety Program has a board of people that are not federally employed––or federally employed in the past––including but not limited to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center or Federal Emergency Management Agency. This board needs to be driven by people who are not federal employees and therefore should have only one or two federal employees.