MANAGING OUR LEVEES IN A POST KATRINA WORLD
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) completely overhauled the federal safety standards for levees, including significantly increasing what’s required of local levee managers.
To prove that the local levee system meets federal standards, the Levee Ready Columbia partners funded the completion of the first ever comprehensive geotechnical assessment of the levee system. The full investigation took about five years and cost about $5 million to complete.
Although the investigation showed that the levees are in fairly good shape, the following problem areas were identified where the levee system does not currently meet minimum federal safety standards.
The projects listed above will need to be addressed to meet FEMA’s requirements for levee certification. Through our investigation, however, we also identified other parts of the system that will require modernization over time, including reshaping levee sections to meet current design guidelines. In addition to the structural issues with the levees, there are a number of issues related to the age, use, and conditions of many of the pumps, pump stations, pipes, and drains that convey water as a part of the overall system. The conveyance infrastructure plays a critical role in moving significant amounts of water out of the system during the winter, spring, and early summer months to help reduce the risk of flooding in the managed floodplain behind the levees.
Levee Ready Columbia is pursing both short- and long-term approached to recertify and modernize the levee system, including agreeing to continue to work together as a partnership through 2024. On top of this, the partners have pursued the designation of a US Army Corps New Start Feasibility Study, which is the only pathway we have been able to identify to secure federal investment in the levee system. More information about the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Feasibility Study is available here.
The partners are also working on reforming the way the levee system is managed to help modernize and maintain the system to higher standards and to be able to leverage opportunities to contribute to the environmental and recreational value in the managed floodplain. Get more information about LRC’s efforts to modernize the funding and management structures of the drainage districts responsible for operating and maintaining the levees here.