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Army Corps of EngineersNumerous questions have been raised about the proposed ring levee system to protect the communities of Oxbow, Bakke and Hickson, ND, from severe flooding. The ring levee system is being proposed as mitigation for the staging area needed for the FM Area Diversion Project channel. The staging area would be used to store water when the diversion operates during times of severe flooding.

In addition, several questions have been proposed about what the Corps of Engineers provides for communities with federal levee systems. Below is a discussion of the Corps Levee Safety Program and Inspection of Completed Works.

One of the Corps’ primary missions to the nation is to enhance civil works and protect infrastructure. The Corps has a number of different programs designed to meet this mission objective including the Levee Safety Program (LSP). There are more than 2,500 levee systems that are inspected on an annual basis by the Corps to identify potential deficiencies that could prevent a flood protection system from functioning as designed. Watershed basins are continuously evolving systems and due to their dynamic nature, it is important for proper operation, maintenance, and inspection to be performed on all flood protection systems.

The condition of a flood protection system and how it is maintained greatly affects its performance. Yearly inspections are completed by engineers to identify deficiencies and determine the overall condition of the levee system.

The two types of inspections performed by the Corps are routine inspections and periodic inspections. Routine inspections are more common and are conducted annually. This type of inspection consists of a visual inspection by an engineer to identify possible deficiencies and rate the condition of the levee.

The second type of inspection is the periodic inspection, which is conducted every five years. A periodic inspection looks at the same items as a routine inspection except it goes into greater detail. This type of inspection is led by a professional engineer and consists of a multidisciplinary team who collects information about the system, performs a visual field inspection, and then prepares a detailed report outlining the condition of the system. Every individual deficiency noted during the inspection is assigned an individual rating of acceptable, minimally acceptable, or unacceptable.

Once the results of the report have been finalized, the chief of engineers reviews the report and assigns it an overall system rating based upon the deficiencies noted in the report. There are only three overall ratings the system can receive: acceptable, minimally acceptable, or unacceptable. The overall rating assigned to the project is based upon the individual deficiencies noted in the report.

If the project receives an acceptable or minimally acceptable rating, the system is considered active and eligible for PL 84-99 post flood assistance through the USACE Rehabilitation and Inspection program. This assistance should not be confused with FEMA levee accreditation or flood insurance. If a levee is accredited through FEMA, the communities protected by the levee are not required to purchase flood insurance. PL 84-99 assistance is the authority for the Corps to provide assistance to communities who are subject to flooding. If the system is eligible for PL 84-99 assistance, the Corps will pay for any damage to the levee that occurs as a result of a disaster at no charge to the community.

Performing routine and periodic inspections of completed flood protection systems has many benefits to the community:

  • PL 84-99 allows the Corps to ensure the community that the levee system will be restored if it is ever damaged.
  • Performing yearly inspections allows Corps representatives to locate potential deficiencies that could prevent the system from functioning as designed during a flood event.
  • Inspections encourage the sponsor and the Corps to communicate about the levee system to make sure that the system is operated and maintained in an acceptable manner.

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