US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District

Levee Systems - Myth & Fact

MYTHIf I need to know something about the levees in my community, someone will tell me.

FACT – Many communities have great outreach programs, but people who work or live behind levees also have a personal responsibility for their own safety.  Want to learn more about levees in your community?  Speaking to community officials is a good place to start.  Also, there may be information in the National Levee Database.  Enter your zip code to learn about nearby levees and leveed areas, and see summary ratings for the levees that USACE inspects.

MYTHAs long as I live behind a levee, my community will always be safe from flooding.

FACT – Levee safety is a component of a broader flood risk management approach. Levees may reduce flood risk, but they don’t eliminate it.  The Levee Safety Program assesses and communicates risk to encourage better informed decisions about the best flood risk reduction measures by individuals, businesses, levee sponsors, other responsible agencies, and USACE itself.  For example, USACE can help reduce flood risk by building levees in partnership with a local community, whereas in a coordinated but independent action, local government can further reduce flood risk by implementing flood plain management actions such as evacuation plans, zoning ordinances, building codes and public outreach.

MYTHI’m not in the “100-year” flood zone, so I’m not at risk.

FACT – Risk doesn’t stop at a line on a map.  For flood insurance purposes flood maps show the elevation reached by a flood with a one percent annual chance of occurring, also known as a 100-year flood.  This is not the same as flood “risk”, which also takes into account how the levee will perform as well as what could happen if it doesn’t perform.  For this reason, USACE recommends flood insurance for everyone in a leveed area.

MYTHUSACE oversees and manages all levees.

FACT – The levees included in the USACE Levee Safety Program, otherwise referred to as the USACE levee portfolio or USACE program levees, account for only about 10 percent of the nation’s levees (as estimated by the National Committee on Levee Safety).  However, with almost 10 million people living or working behind USACE program levees, USACE considers the role it has in assessing and communicating risks a top priority.