The Baltimore District regularly inspects levees within the Corps Levee Safety Program inventory to monitor their overall condition, identify potential deficiencies, verify that needed maintenance is taking place, determine eligibility for the federal rehabilitation assistance (in accordance with P.L. 84-99), and provide the public with information about their levees.
Each levee segment receives an overall segment inspection rating of Acceptable, Minimally Acceptable, or Unacceptable. What these ratings mean and how they are determined can be viewed in the levee inspection checklist. Deficiencies in a system may be caused by excessive vegetation on the levees, animal burrows, erosion, sediment in the outflows, etc. Though the ratings do not fully define the risk, they are important because they provide consistency in risk characterization, communication and risk reduction measures and help prioritize federal and local investments.
If a levee system comprises one or more levee segments (if there are different levee sponsors for different parts of the levee) then the overall levee system rating is the lowest of the segment ratings. This rating for operations and maintenance is based on the levee inspection checklist, which includes 125 specific items dealing with operation and maintenance of levee embankments, floodwalls, interior drainage, pump stations, and channels. The overall segment and system ratings are used to determine if the levee is eligible for federal rehabilitation assistance through the Rehabilitation and Inspection Program (P.L. 84-99).
Levees remain eligible if they are operated and maintained to certain standards by their non-federal sponsors. The Corps now offers sponsors a process through the system-wide improvement framework (SWIF) to remain temporarily eligible for assistance, while they correct unacceptable deficiencies in their projects over time to transition them to meet Corps standards.
There are two main types of inspections:
· Routine Inspection is a visual inspection to verify and rate levee system operations and maintenance. It is typically conducted each year for all levees in the Corps Levee Safety Program.
· Periodic Inspection is a comprehensive inspection conducted by a multidisciplinary team led by a professional engineer. USACE typically conducts this inspection every five years on the federally-authorized levees in the Levee Safety Program. Baltimore District conducted periodic inspections from 2009 to 2013 using district and contractor teams.
There are also inspections that are conducted after special circumstances like major flooding or an earthquake.
The Corps shares inspection results with the authority responsible for levee operations and maintenance, also known as the levee sponsor. The Corps also shares the results with FEMA, to help inform decisions about levee accreditation for flood insurance purposes.
More than 10 million people live or work behind Corps Levee Safety Program levees, and, in 2011, levee systems contributed to more than $120 billion in damages prevented. However, with these benefits, comes risks.
It is a priority for the Corps to assess how levees are expected to perform and what the potential consequences of non-performance would be. This places levee systems into a risk-informed context that provides a consistent and credible way to prioritize actions that will help manage the risks associated with owning or operating levees. The Corps uses risk assessments to prioritize life safety risks for its own levee safety activities, and also to provide a basis for communicating risk, so levee sponsors and other stakeholders can make more informed decisions.
Levees do not eliminate risk. Risk factors are always changing, and there are always risk factors we cannot know or control. Risk is managed by routine Levee Safety Program activities, including operations and maintenance, inspections and risk assessments.
The levee sponsor is responsible for operations, maintenance, repair, replacement, and rehabilitation of the levee system, and has the lead role in planning the path forward. The Corps can provide advisory help, technical assistance, or cost-shared construction. Government agencies at every level, as well as the private sector and the public, also have roles to play to ensure levees will perform as designed in the event of high water.
The Corps can support risk reduction activities not only through the Levee Safety Program, but also through the Flood Risk Management Program, Silver Jackets Program, and authorities such as Floodplain Management Services, Planning Assistance to States, Advance Measures, and others.
VIEW BALTIMORE DISTRICT'S LEVEE SYSTEM INVENTORY