Fact Sheet 27: Levee Safety Program

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District
Published May 11, 2015
Updated: March 22, 2023

Levees are man-made barriers along a water course constructed for the primary purpose of excluding flood waters from a portion of the floodplain (referred to as a “leveed area”) from a range of flood events. They provide tremendous benefits to communities, but with those benefits come risks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program works to better understand, manage, and reduce the flood risks associated with levees.

There is no definitive record of how many levees there are in the United States. The Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Committee on Levee Safety estimate there are more than 100,000 miles of levees nationwide. Further, there is no comprehensive assessment of the current condition and performance of those levees. The Corps of Engineers began inventorying and assessing all federally authorized levees in 2006 as part of its Levee Safety Program, which constitutes approximately 2,000 levee systems or 14,400 miles of levees. Non-federal levees (constructed by others) are also part of the Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program if they meet criteria similar to federally authorized levee systems.

The Corps and FEMA work closely together to ensure effective communication and information exchange happens between the two agencies. Our inspection, risk assessment and communication activities inform FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program activities and vice versa. 

Program Background

The basic objectives of the Levee Safety Program are to develop balanced and informed assessments of levees within the program; evaluate, prioritize, and justify levee safety decisions; and recommend improvements to public safety associated with levee systems. As part of this program, the Corps created the National Levee Database, inventoried all levees in the program and improved inspection procedures. The Corps is now developing a method to manage its portfolio of levee systems and is reviewing and revising current levee-related policies and procedures. Another important goal of the program includes improving public sponsor and community understandings of the benefits and flood risks associated with levee systems.

The Levee Safety Program is composed of more than 14,000 miles of levees and includes: systems operated and maintained by the Corps; federally authorized systems locally operated and maintained and covered under the Corps Inspection of Completed Works program; and locally constructed, operated, and maintained systems in the Corps’ Rehabilitation and Inspection Program in accordance with Public Law 84-99.

The Corps’ System Wide Improvement Framework (SWIF) process has been developed to assist community officials in developing comprehensive plans to address complex issues along their levee systems. Levee systems in the process remain eligible for Corps post flood rehabilitation assistance.

Recognizing that managing risk is a shared responsibility, the Corps works closely with federal, state, local and international partners to share information and develop solutions.