FEMA and USACE: Distinct, but Complementary, Roles
USACE and FEMA have different roles and responsibilities related to levees. FEMA addresses mapping and floodplain management issues related to levees, and accredits levees as meeting requirements set forth by the National Flood Insurance Program. USACE addresses a range of operation and maintenance, risk communication, risk management, and risk reduction issues as part of its responsibilities under the Levee Safety Program.
Depending on the levee system, FEMA and USACE may be involved with the levee sponsor and community independently or -- when a levee system overlaps both agency programs -- jointly. Under both scenarios the long term goals are similar: to reduce risk and lessen the devastating consequences of flooding.
Some FEMA and USACE partnering activities related to levees include:
- Joint meetings with levee sponsors and other stakeholders
- Integration of levee information into the National Levee Database
- State Silver Jackets teams
- Sharing of levee information
- Targeted task forces to improve program alignment
Close Working Relationships With Sponsors and Communities
USACE, FEMA, and the localities where levees are located all have key roles in levee safety. By working together they will:
- Improve understanding of flood risk
- Identify structural and nonstructural local mitigation actions that can be taken to reduce that flood risk, and
- Implement identified mitigation actions on a short- or long-term basis.
Levee Safety: Shared Responsibilities
FEMA and USACE want to ensure that communities are aware of the risk associated with levees so informed decisions can be made. Both provide communities valuable information to help in managing the risks. FEMA and USACE can help local communities maximize their understanding of the available options associated with the management of flood risk at the local level, while improving public understanding of federal roles and responsibilities.
Coordination between FEMA and USACE with regard levees is now standard within many of each agency’s policies and practices. Over the past several years, both agencies coordinated policies where appropriate; jointly participated in meetings with stakeholders; and participated in many multiagency efforts, such as the National Committee on Levee Safety, the Federal Interagency Floodplain Management Task Force, and the Silver Jackets Program.
Living with levees is a shared responsibility. While operating, maintaining levee systems are the levee sponsor responsibility, local officials are adopting protocols and procedures for ensuring public safety and participation in the NFIP. Individual property owners are learning more about their flood risk, resulting from the possibility of a breached or overtopped levee, and how they can protect their families, businesses, and communities.