Levees and public safety

Public safety is the Corps’ number one priority. To reduce flood risks, improve public safety, and communicate to local levee sponsors and the public the overall condition of levee systems and recommended actions, the Corps has created a more comprehensive and rigorous levee inspection process under its Levee Safety Program.

USACE Levee Safety Program: Shared Risks. Shared Solutions.

Principles of the levee safety program:

  • Levees do not eliminate flood risk, but can provide critical time for local emergency management officials to evacuate residents safely. 
  • It is important to communicate accurate and timely information about the risk of living and working behind levees. Communicating risk-related issues and concerns, holding life safety as paramount, supports Corps and local decisions aimed at reducing risk. 
  • Levee safety is a component of a broader flood risk management approach. Levee safety actions should be incorporated into a community's Hazard Mitigation Plan. 
  • A sustainable, systems and collaborative approach is the most effective way to manage and assess levees and other flood risk reduction methods. 
  • Levee safety and managing risks are shared responsibilities. With this, the Corps works closely with federal, state and local partners to share information and develop solutions. 

Levee inspections and the National Levee Safety Program

The development of a National Levee Safety Program is a combined effort of many individuals with divergent ideas. Two important principles guiding the Levee Safety Program are the shared responsibility among partners at all levels for levee safety and the need for communication of risk as discovered in the continuous and periodic levee system inspections and assessments. Partners include the Corps, levee and drainage district sponsors, other federal and state agencies as well a citizens that make their own risk-based choices.

Why is it important to continuously conduct levee inspections?

  • Ensure the levee system will perform as expected.
  • Identify deficiencies or areas that need monitoring or immediate repair.
  • Continuously assess the integrity of the levee system to identify any changes over time.
  • Collect information to help make informed decisions about future actions.
  • Provide the public with reliable information about levees.


The Corps conducts two types of levee inspections as part of the Levee Safety Program:

Routine Inspections, also called annual inspections or continuing eligibility inspections, are visual inspections that verify proper levee system operation and maintenance. Routine Inspections are conducted on an annual basis.    Periodic Inspections provide a more rigorous assessment than the Routine Inspection and include a more detailed and consistent evaluation of the condition of the levee system. Periodic Inspections verify proper operation and maintenance; evaluate operational adequacy, structural stability and safety of the system; and compare current design and construction criteria with those in place when the levee was built. Periodic Inspections are conducted every five years. 

Inspection results:

Both Routine and Periodic inspections incorporate a consistent inspection checklist and result in a levee system rating for operation and maintenance. This rating determines if a levee system is active in the Corps’ Rehabilitation and Inspection Program. Active levees are eligible for federal rehabilitation funds for flood damages. A levee system must maintain an acceptable rating to remain active. If a project receives a minimally acceptable or unacceptable Inspection rating, it may become ineligible for federal rehabilitation assistance if damaged in a flood or storm event.


Levee certification and the National Flood Insurance Program

The Federal Emergency Management Agency administers the National Flood Insurance Program, which reduces the socio-economic impact of disasters by providing affordable insurance to property owners, renters and businesses and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations.

Eligible levees, to a reasonable degree of certainty, will protect the area from the base regulatory flood, which has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year (sometimes called a 100-year flood). Certification of levees for the National Flood Insurance Program is the responsibility of the local levee owner or sponsor. If levee certification documentation is found to be in order, FEMA has the authority to accredit the levee and the associated flood insurance rate maps.

In some cases, the Corp's Levee Safety Program activities can help inform and support the initial certification process, but the Corps does not have specific authority to conduct these levee certifications. For more information on NFIP, visit FEMA's website.