LEVEE INSPECTION & ACCREDITATION
Reducing Flood Risk
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a levee as a “man-made structure, usually an earthen embankment, designed and constructed in accordance with sound engineering practices to contain, control, or divert the flow of water so as to provide protection from temporary flooding.” Levees reduce the risk of flooding but no levee system can eliminate all flood risk. There is always a chance that a flood will exceed the capacity of a levee, no matter how well built.
Levees can work to provide critical time for local emergency management officials to safely evacuate residents during flooding events. The possibility exists that levees can be overtopped or breached by large floods; however, levees sometimes fail even when a flood is small. Levee certification is the process that deals specifically with the design and physical condition of the levee. Certification must be completed for the levee to be eligible for accreditation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Certification and Accreditation of Levees
Certification consists of documentation, signed and sealed by a registered Professional Engineer, as defined in Chapter 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR), Section 65.2. This documentation is provided to FEMA to demonstrate that a registered Professional Engineer certified the levee, and meets the specific criteria and standards to provide risk reduction from at least the one-percent-annual-chance flood. Once the levee meets the other requirements of 44 CFR 65.10, FEMA can accredit the levee and show the area behind it as being a moderate-risk area on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).
If a community or levee owner wants the area behind a levee to be shown as reducing risk from the one-percent-annual-chance flood, they must first complete the process for having the levee certified. Once accredited, the levee system will be shown on NFIP rate maps as providing protection from the base flood. Since NFIP insurance rates are based on risk, a higher risk means higher flood insurance cost while a lower risk means lower flood insurance cost. Areas protected by a levee on an NFIP map are usually at a lower risk of flooding; therefore the cost for flood insurance may be lower. WRMA engineers are very experienced in both, levee certification and accreditation with local municipalities, special districts, and water management districts.