As The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 debate rages on, there’s another matter at hand impacting the price commercial and residential property owners pay for the cost of flood insurance in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-designated high-risk flood zones: levees.

By definition, a levee is a man-made, earthen-like, structure to block the flow of water. Historically designed to protect areas such as agricultural crops; there are now levees in many industrial, commercial and residential areas with buildings and homes. Levees represent a clear-cut case of perception versus reality. The perception is that a levee will provide flood protection from seasonal high waters; yet the reality is somewhere in the middle, given these three facts:

Performance: Many government and levee experts believe most of the nation’s levees covering 85,000 miles will fail.

Oversight: There is no single agency in charge of levee oversight, not FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Committee on Levee Safety, or the National Resources Conservation Service. In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a very limited role in the regular operation, maintenance and improvement of locally operated levees. Levees built and maintained by local communities in association with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or other federal government agencies account for less than 30,000 miles.

FEMA’s role is limited to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) risk assessment, mapping and levee accreditation. Only those levee systems that meet increased criteria relating to the one-percent annual chance of flooding standard are designated on new FEMA maps (Flood Insurance Rate Maps – FIRM). In 2011, less than 34 percent met the accreditation standards.

Flood Zone Classification: Because a majority of levees are privately owned, the location, age, condition, operation, maintenance and performance statuses are largely unknown. They are not depicted on flood maps as providing protection. As a result, many property owners find their buildings and homes designated in high-risk flood zones, which may or may not be accurate.

The Solution

Knowing what we know -and what we don’t know- about the thousands of miles of levees underscores the importance of a flood risk evaluation for insured buildings and structures in the proximity of a public or private levee system. Performing a flood risk evaluation is invaluable when it comes to controlling risk, reducing the severity of loss and making sound business decisions such as placing additional flood insurance, performing construction work to mitigate the flood risk or selling the property. The evaluation will examine the impact of levee accreditation status, levee building design, age, ownership, maintenance and performance, as well as, impending FEMA map changes.

Some things, such as the state of levee affairs, are outside of our control, but a flood risk evaluation is not one of them. If you own or manage commercial property in a FEMA-designated high-risk flood zone or in the proximity of a levee system, contact AmeriFlood Solutions online or via telephone (561-922-9735) for a complimentary flood risk evaluation.

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