US Army Corps of Engineers
Detroit District

Levee Frequently Asked Questions

1. How will inspection results be used/communicated?
2. How will this rating affect FEMAs certification of the levee and the need to buy flood insurance?
3. What does an unacceptable rating mean?
4. What is risk?
5. What is the difference between a routine inspection and periodic inspection?
6. What levees will the Corps inspect?
7. Why all of a sudden are we seeing so many unacceptable and minimally acceptable ratings?
8. Why are you making the reports for official use only? We thought your process is supposed to be open and transparent. 
9. Will the Corps help fix the deficiencies it finds?  


1. How will inspection results be used/communicated?   Top


The periodic inspection will take place of the annual routine inspection for that year. The inspection team will recommend a system rating, acceptable, minimally acceptable or unacceptable, based upon routine inspection items, to the District Levee Safety Officer. The District Levee Safety Officer will determine the final rating and discuss the inspection results with the project sponsor. Inspection ratings affect the sponsor's eligibility for federal reabilitation assistance if damaged in a flood or storm event. In addition, the periodic inspection results may also include additional recommendations of items to monitor, identification of deficiencies, or areas that need further evaluation. This information will be communicated to the sponsor in order to decide next steps.


2. How will this rating affect FEMAs certification of the levee and the need to buy flood insurance?         Top


Neither the routine inspection nor the periodic inspection results in a levee system evaluation (certification) for the National Flood Insurance Program, which is required to accredit a levee system for NFIP purposes. A levee system evaluation for the NFIP focuses only on the 1% flood, which is an insurance standard, not a safety standard (the 1% flood does not eliminate risk). The USACE Levee Safety Program focuses on projects designed and built for multiple levels of flood events, not just the 1% flood.

The Corps will provide periodic inspection results to the local project sponsor and FEMA. FEMA would then make the determination about the effect of the findings on its accreditation for the National Flood Insurance Program.

If the Corps certified or evaluated the levee system it would review the certification in light of the inspection results.


3. What does an unacceptable rating mean?          Top


It means that one or more items that make up the levee system are rated as unacceptable and would prevent the system from performing as intended, or a serious deficiency noted in past inspections (which had previously resulted in a minimally acceptable system rating) has not been corrected within the established timeframe. An unacceptable system rating also places the levee system in an "inactive" status under the Corps Rehabilitation and Inspection Program (or PL 84-99 program) and will no longer be eligible for federal rehabilitation funds to repair the levee system if it is damaged in a flood or storm event.


4. What is risk?          Top


Risk is the measure of likelihood that a natural event will take place, the performance of the infrastructure during this event, and the consequences of failure or poor performance - loss of life being of paramount concern.


5. What is the difference between a routine inspection and periodic inspection?           Top


Routine inspections, conducted annually, are a critical component of a levee safety program and focus on the operation and maintenance of the project. These annual inspections verify the project sponsor operates and maintains the levee to achieve the maximum benefits the levee was designed to provide. Routine inspection items include vegetation, encroachments, closure structures, erosion, animal burrows, pump operation, culverts and relief wells. Routine inspections result in an acceptable, minimally acceptable or unacceptable rating and affect the project's eligibility for federal rehabilitation assistance under Public Law 84-99 if damaged in a flood or storm event.

The periodic inspection is the next level in the levee safety program and is conducted by a multidisciplinary team, led by a professional engineer. It includes a more detailed, comprehensive and consistent evaluation of the condition of the levee system and will be conducted every five years on federally authorized levees in the Corps program. Activity under the periodic inspection includes routine inspection items; verifies proper operation and maintenance; evaluates operational adequacy, structural stability and, safety of the system; and compares current design and construction criteria with those in place when the levee was built.

The final periodic inspection rating is based upon the routine inspection items, and will include an acceptable, minimally acceptable or unacceptable rating. Additional periodic inspection information that will be shared with the project sponsor includes identification of components and features that require monitoring over time. A levee system that receives an unacceptable rating for the routine inspection items during periodic inspection may become ineligible for federal rehabilitation assistance if damaged in a flood or storm event.



6. What levees will the Corps inspect?           Top


Because of existing authorities, periodic inspections will focus on federally authorized levee systems, or levees built by USACE but operated, maintained, repaired, replaced and rehabilitated by the local levee system sponsor. These levee systems will be inspected regardless of their current status in the Rehabilitation and Inspection Program.


7. Why all of a sudden are we seeing so many unacceptable and minimally acceptable ratings?         Top


The Corps has improved how it inspects and evaluates levees, which enables USACE to better communicate with the local sponsors and the public overall expected operation and maintenance standards, the overall condition of the levee system and the associated risks of the system. Improvements include a single, newly revised inspection checklist for inspections to be used on all levee systems within Corps authority.


8. Why are you making the reports for official use only? We thought your process is supposed to be open and transparent.         Top


We must constantly balance the information stakeholders use to make risk-informed decisions about the public safety and safeguarding information that could be used to threaten a project's security and increase risk of harm to residents. Knowing and understanding the system is unacceptable or minimally acceptable, without releasing specific vulnerability information in an uncontrolled manner still allows stakeholders and residents to make informed decisions about their personal safety. Examples include having an emergency evacuation plan and/or purchasing flood insurance to protect economic losses.


9. Will the Corps help fix the deficiencies it finds?         Top


Operation, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and replacement activities are local sponsor responsibilities. The periodic inspection identifies components and features that require monitoring over time, such as erosion, settlement, vegetation and under seepage. The periodic inspection will yield a rating that is based upon the routine inspection items, which are the responsibility of the local sponsor. Subject to the findings and authorities, the local sponsors will decide on options to pursue, which may include a project in coordination with the Corps or other partners.