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In 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) created its Levee Safety Program. The Levee Safety Program mission is to assess the integrity and viability of levees and recommend courses of action to make sure that levee systems do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property and environment. The Corps subsequently launched a major effort to:
- Create a levee safety organization;
- Build a National Levee Database (NLD) and inventory;
- Develop a methodology for performing technical risk assessments of existing levee infrastructure; and
- Review and revise current related policies and procedures associated with levees.
Important concepts around which the program is built include:
- The number one goal of the Levee Safety Program is public safety;
- Levee safety and communicating risk is a shared responsibility among federal, state, local and private partners, and extremely important so that individuals can participate in public safety decisions;
- The Corps levee safety program provides continuous feedback about levee systems through rigorous inspections and assessments.
With this in mind, the basic objectives of the Corps' Levee Safety Program are:
- Develop balanced and informed assessments of this nation’s levees;
- Evaluate, prioritize and justify levee safety decisions, and
- Make recommendations to improve public safety associated with levee systems.
In keeping with the engineering profession’s code of ethics that holds public safety paramount, key elements of the program include informing stakeholders of the residual risks that remain with levees:
- Levees and levee systems do not remove all flood risk.
- Levees can actually increase flood risk.
- Other alternatives should be considered to compliment levees and/or to replace levees in order to maximize flood risk reduction in the long term.
In November 2007, the Corps established its Levee Safety Organization at every level—headquarters, divisions and districts. Positions at the district and division include a Levee Safety Officer (LSO), who is the technical lead for levee safety issues and decisions, and Levee Safety Program Manager (LSPM), who is responsible for coordination and implementation of the Levee Safety Program.