In a statement made on December 10th, members of the National Committee on Levee Safety said that the United States needs a “�complete inventory of all levees and a national safety standard for the last line of defense against floods.”
The committee, which was formed as the result of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, is chaired by the Army Corps of Engineers, and comprised of levee experts from federal, state, and local governments, as well as American Indian tribes and the general public. The 16-member committee will be making recommendations to Congress in January.
An Associated Press report from last may said that while the corps completed an inventory of the levees it maintains or helps fund, there are thousands of private levees in existence, with no inventory. In fact, there is no official count, nor does anyone know their condition, though it is known that heavy rains and record flooding in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois (approaching record levels from 1993 in the latter two states) resulted in the breaching or overflowing of hundreds of private levees.
According to committee member Les Harder, “The flooding this year in the Midwest provided a good reminder to committee members of the importance of the task before us and the importance of getting a handle on our levee system.”
Harder has support from the rest of the committee, among them, Mike Stankiewicz, who is chief of flood control projects for the New York Department of Environment Conservation. Stankiewicz said the task of inventorying every levee is daunting, and used the 14,000 miles of levees in California, 80% of which are privately owned, to illustrate the point.