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Dam Safety

Dam Safety
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Dam Safety Program uses a risk-informed approach to manage its portfolio of 694 dams, with public safety the number one priority. This robust risk-informed approach is a best practice adopted to develop balanced and informed assessments of the safety of our dams and to evaluate, prioritize and justify dam safety decisions.

Critical to an effective safety program is, of course, the focus on public safety, but it also requires continuous and periodic project inspections and evaluations.  The Dam Safety Program seeks to ensure that USACE owned and operated dams do not present unacceptable risks to people, property, or the environment, with the emphasis on people. 

Levee Safety

Levee Safety
To date, there is no single federal agency responsible for levee oversight nationwide. In 2006, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) created its Levee Safety Program with the mission to assess the integrity and viability of levees and recommend courses of action to ensure that levee systems do not present unacceptable risks to the public, property, and environment.

Levee safety and effectively communicating risk is a shared responsibility among federal, state and private partners and provides the opportunity for individuals to make well informed public safety decisions for themselves and take appropriate action.

USACE roles and responsibilities with levee systems vary depending on the particular congressional authority assigned to it (e.g., Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (PL 84-99). Following are some of the primary roles:

  • Inspect and assess the reliability of the levees and floodwalls in the USACE portfolio. Information obtained from inspections of levees will be integrated into the USACE National Levee Database;
  • Communicate risks to life, property and the environment to local communities (usually through non-federal sponsors) including assessment of the level and nature of the risk;
  • Where significant risk to human life exists, assist communities in understanding their options for Interim Risk Reduction Measures (IRRM) to immediately lower risk of loss of life to people while a permanent solution can be found and implemented;
  • Assist local communities in flood fighting, both by providing information and direct assistance;
  • Develop and share state of the art approaches, tools and standards related to levee safety as a means to raise understanding of risks posed by levees as well as methods and tools to assess, communicate and address those risks.

Four Essential Levee Facts:

  • Flooding will happen. All rivers, streams and lakes will flood eventually. This means that all levees will be called upon to combat floodwaters at some point.
  • No levee is flood-proof. Levees reduce the risk of flooding, but no levee system can eliminate all flood risk. A levee is generally designed to control a certain amount of floodwater. If a larger flood occurs, floodwaters will flow over the levee. Flooding can also damage levees, allowing floodwaters to flow through an opening or breach.
  • Risks associated with flooding vary. If you live behind a levee, you are responsible for knowing the threat you face from flooding. Don't assume someone else is watching out for you. Take responsibility.
  • Actions taken now will save lives and property. There are many steps you can take, from purchasing flood insurance to developing an evacuation plan, to flood-proofing your home to reporting any problems that you see. The sooner you act, the better off you'll be when the next flood occurs. Be prepared.

    Taken from the American Society of Civil Engineers Guide "So, You Live Behind a Levee!" Download a free copy at