The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report surveying the progress the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have made carrying out the National Levee Safety Program. The conclusion: the Agencies “have made little progress in implementing key national levee-safety-related activities required in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014.” The reason: lack of funding and higher priorities for other programs.
Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA) in June 2014. WRRDA requires the Corps and FEMA to manage national levee-safety-related activities, including establishing voluntary national levee-safety guidelines and providing financial and technical assistance to nonfederal stakeholders that take actions to promote levee safety. WRRDA authorizes $395 million to support levee safety initiatives over five years, yet not a single dollar has been appropriated for the program, nor has the program been prioritized in the President’s Budget Request in the last three fiscal year cycles.
As flooding continues to threaten communities across the county, establishing a national levee safety program could provide much needed coordination, raise risk awareness, provide funding for inventory/inspection and lay the groundwork for a levee rehabilitation and repair program. As the proverbial saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.