Flood Risk Management:abd Levees: A Federal Primer
Flood Risk Management and Levees:
A Federal Primer
Updated June 20, 2008
Betsy A. Cody and Nicole T. Carter
Specialists in Natural Resources Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Flood Risk Management and Levees:
A Federal Primer
Midwestern flooding and Hurricane Katrina have raised concerns about
reducing human and economic losses from flooding. In the United States, local
governments are responsible for land use and zoning decisions that shape floodplain
and coastal development; however, state and federal governments also influence
community and individual decisions on managing flood risk. The federal
government constructs some of the nation’s flood control infrastructure, supports
hazard mitigation, offers flood insurance, and provides emergency response and
disaster aid for significant floods. In addition to constructing flood damage reduction
infrastructure, state and local entities operate and maintain most of the flood control
infrastructure and have initial flood-fighting responsibilities.
Prior to the Lower Mississippi River Flood of 1927, the federal role in flood
control was limited. The Flood Control Act of 1936 (19 Stat. 1570) declared some
flood control a “proper” federal activity. Today, the federal agencies most involved
in flood control and flood fighting and emergency response are the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers (Corps) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The 110th Congress is faced with numerous flood control issues, including
responding to disasters and adjusting federal flood policies. The recent midwestern
floods and Hurricane Katrina have broadened interest in fundamental review of the
current approach to managing floodwaters. Questions raised are: Do current policies,
programs, and practices result in an acceptable level of aggregate national risk? Do
they promote wise use and investments in the nation’s floodplains and coasts? Do
they encourage development that puts people in harm’s way? Levees represent a
particular challenge in that they may encourage development in flood-prone areas,
but sometimes fail or are overtopped by significant storms. Hurricane Katrina
brought national attention to the catastrophic consequences when structures fail or
are breached. Similarly, two major midwestern floods in the span of 15 years (one
in 1993 and one in 2008) have raised concerns about structures’ ability to reduce or
avoid flood damages and their effects on development patterns.
The 110th Congress addressed some flood issues in the first omnibus Water
Resources Development Act (WRDA) enacted after Hurricane Katrina — WRDA
2007 (P.L. 110-114). For example, WRDA 2007 requires that national water
resources planning avoid the unwise use of floodplains and flood-prone areas, and
requires the President to report by 2010 on national vulnerability to flood damages,
including the risk to human life. This report is to include assessments of current
programs and recommendations for improvements. The law also creates a Committee
on Levee Safety to make recommendations for a national levee safety program. How
these changes are implemented over the next few years may affect the nature of
federal investment in flood and storm damage infrastructure and mitigation measures.
This report provides a primer on responsibilities for flood management,
describes the role of federal agencies, and discusses flood issues before the 110th
Congress. The report also discusses the legislative response to Hurricane Katrina.
Flood Management Responsibilities: A Federalist Division.............1
Federal Role and Interest in Reducing Flood Damages.............2
Principal Federal Agencies..................................3
A Flood Risk Framework .......................................5
Reducing Vulnerability and the 100-Year Flood..................5
Next Step: A Risk Management Approach?.....................6
The Levee Challenge.......................................7
Flood Management Issues in the 110th Congress......................8
A Legislative Response to Katrina’s Lessons: Factoring in Safety....8
Selected Remaining Issues...................................9
Flood Risk Management and Levees:
A Federal Primer
Midwestern flooding in 2008 and Hurricane Katrina flooding in 2005 have
enlivened interest in reducing the risk of flooding in communities across the nation.
These large-scale events have demonstrated that not only is property damaged during
floods, but also floods can represent significant risks to life and can cause economic
disruption and other social hardships. The 110th Congress, like many earlier
Congresses, is faced with numerous flood control issues, including responding to
flood events and altering federal flood damage reduction, mitigation, and insurance
policies. These issues have been brought to the fore as the Midwest experiences its
second major flood in 15 years.1
In the United States, local governments are responsible for land use and zoning
decisions that direct floodplain and coastal development; however, state and federal
governments also influence community and individual decisions on managing flood
risk. For example, the federal government constructs some of the nation’s flood
control infrastructure, supports hazard mitigation actions, offers flood insurance, and
provides emergency response and disaster aid for significant floods. The federal
agencies most involved in flood damage reduction and flood fighting and emergency
response are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA).
This report is divided into three sections. The first describes the current
intergovernmental division of responsibilities for flood management and the federal
role and interest in flood management. The second provides a framework for
understanding flood risk management issues and the challenge of addressing the
reliability and level of protection of the nation’s levees. The third section describes
actions that the 110th Congress has already taken and selected remaining issues that
it, and many previous Congresses, have faced.
Flood Management Responsibilities: A Federalist Division
Recent major flooding events have drawn attention to ongoing debates about
how to improve management of flood risk and the roles and responsibilities of
1 Major flooding in the Midwest is reported to be in the range of a 400-year to 500-year
flood; however, most levee protection is built to withstand a 100-year flood. These flood-
year designations, however, do not indicate how often an area may flood. Rather, they are
based on the chance that an area may flood in any given year. For example, the term
100-year flood is the flood elevation that has a 1% chance of being equaled or exceeded
annually. It is not the flood that will occur once every 100 years; 100-year floods can occur
more than once in a relatively short period of time. Likewise, a 500-year flood is five times
less likely to occur in any given year then a 100-year flood (0.2% chance of flooding).
individuals, communities, and the various levels of government. As with many other
policy areas, the federal system has resulted in public functions for flood damage
reduction being shared by all levels of government. Local governments are
responsible for land use and zoning decisions that direct floodplain and coastal
development; however, numerous federal and state flood policies and programs
influence local and individual decision-making. The federal government also funds
some flood and storm damage reduction measures, manages a flood insurance and
mitigation program, and provides disaster assistance.2 It also generates essential data
through mapping and other efforts.
Levees may be built by federal, state, or local entities (including private entities
at the local level). Generally, levees are maintained by a local entity, with some
exceptions. Local levee districts are generally the first entities responsible for
monitoring levee conditions during flooding. The levee districts are also the first
entity responsible for emergency response. If a flood or other emergency exhausts
the levee district’s flood fighting resources, the district typically contacts the state.
The state will contribute its flood fighting resources to the local effort; as the state’s
resources are exhausted, it typically will contact the Corps for assistance under the
Corps’ emergency response authority.
Federal Role and Interest in Reducing Flood Damages. The federal
role in flood control began in the late 19th century. Prompted by devastating floods
in the Mississippi River basin, Congress created a commission to oversee the
development of a levee system to control the river’s flow. The Mississippi River3
Flood of 1927 and floods in the mid-1930s, ushered in a modern era of federal flood
control investment. The Flood Control Act of 1936 (19 Stat. 1570) declared flood4
control a “proper” federal activity in the national interest. Section 1 of the act
established the following policy:
It is hereby recognized that destructive floods upon the rivers of the United
States, upsetting orderly processes and causing loss of life and property,
including the erosion of lands and impairing and obstructing navigation,
highways, railroads, and other channels of commerce between the States,
constitute a menace to national welfare; that it is the sense of Congress that flood
control on navigational waters or their tributaries is a proper activity of the
Federal Government in cooperation with States, their political sub-divisions and
2 For information on the evolution of federal disaster aid, see U.S. Senate Task Force on
Funding Disaster Relief, Federal Disaster Assistance, S.Doc. 104-4 (1995). For
information on federal programs providing disaster assistance, see the CRS Disaster
Assistance and Recovery Web page at [http://apps.crs.gov/cli/cli.aspx?PRDS_CLI_ITEM
3 For more information on the response to the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, see CRS
Report RL33126, Disaster Recovery and Appointment of Recovery Czar: The Executive
Branch’s Response to the Flood of 1927, by Kevin R. Kosar.
4 The Beach Nourishment Act of 1956 (P.L. 84-826) expanded the federal role in
constructing projects for hurricane, storm and shoreline protection, such as seawalls and the
periodic placement of sand on beaches to control erosion. The Flood Control Act of 1950
(64 Stat. 170) began the Corps’ emergency operations by authorizing flood preparedness and
localities thereof; that investigations and improvements of rivers and other
waterways, including watersheds thereof, for flood-control purposes are in the
interest of the general welfare; that the Federal Government should improve or
participate in the improvement of navigable waters or their tributaries including
watersheds thereof, for flood-control purposes if the benefits to whomsoever they
may accrue are in excess of the estimated costs, and if the lives and social
security of people are otherwise adversely affected.
As with many other policy areas, the federal system has resulted in public
functions for flood damage reduction being shared by all levels of government. Since
the mid-1980s, local project sponsors (often local governments or special levee and
drainage districts) share construction cost of federal flood control projects and are
fully responsible for operation and maintenance. Local entities (and sometimes state
entities) may construct flood control infrastructure independently from the federal
government, and are responsible for land use and zoning decisions guiding
development in floodplains and coastal areas.
The impetus for federal and state attention to flooding comes from multiple
sources. For instance, flooding often can occur regionally, and flood control works
of one community can exacerbate or, alternatively, mitigate flood risk in other areas.
Some federal and state actions attempt to alter individual and community behavior
to account for flooding risks and losses. Most individuals discount the probability
of loss from infrequent events, even if those events may cause significant losses and
disruption. In general, many local decision makers do not view environmental
hazards, such as flooding, as serious problems, in comparison to the many other5
problems that local governments are expected to address.
Principal Federal Agencies. As previously noted, the Corps and FEMA are
the principal federal agencies involved in flood damage reduction and flood fighting
and emergency response. Other federal agencies also are involved with flood damage
reduction projects, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources
Conservation Service, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, and
the Tennessee Valley Authority.
At the direction of Congress, the Corps is authorized to participate in the cost-
shared planning and construction of flood damage reduction projects, such as
building levees and floodwalls to reduce damages from coastal and riverine flood
hazards. The Corps is responsible for much of the federal construction investment
in flood control and storm protection infrastructure. It has constructed nearly 9,000
miles of the nation’s roughly 15,000 miles of levees. Corps involvement in flood
control construction is predicated on the project being in the national interest, which
is determined by the likelihood of widespread and general benefits, a shortfall in the
local ability to solve the water resources problem, the national savings achieved, and6
precedent and law.
5 R. Burby, “Hurricane Katrina and the Paradoxes of Government Disaster Policy,” prepared
for Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (March 2006).
6 This is described in the Corps’ Digest of Water Resources Policies and Authorities
Generally, after construction by the federal government, this infrastructure is
turned over to a local entity for operation, maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation.
The Corps, however, has retained responsibility for roughly 900 miles of levees,
primarily along the Mississippi River and for multi-purpose dams. FEMA has
various programs, such as its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and its Flood
Mitigation Assistance Program, that promote flood mitigation actions, such as
assisting in removing vulnerable structures from floodplains and other activities that
reduce the impact of a flood disaster.
The Corps performs most of the federal inspections of levees. Levee inspections
are conducted for participation in two federal programs. The first is the Corps’
Rehabilitation and Inspection Program. This program provides federal assistance for
repairing levees damaged during floods. The Corps is to conduct annual (or semi-
annual) inspections of levees for initial inclusion in the program and for continued
eligibility for assistance. The Corps also often performs the inspections to certify a
levee’s reliability for a 100-year flood under FEMA’s National Flood Insurance
Congress gave the Corps emergency response authority that allows the agency
to fight floods and other natural disasters. P.L. 84-99 (33 U.S.C. §701n) provides the
Corps authority for emergency response and disaster assistance. It authorizes disaster
preparedness, advance measures, emergency operations (disaster response and
post-flood response), rehabilitation of flood control works threatened or destroyed
by floods, protection or repair of federally authorized shore protection works
threatened or destroyed by coastal storms, emergency dredging, and flood-related
rescue operations. These activities are limited to actions to save lives and protect
improved property (public facilities/services and residential or commercial
developments).8 FEMA can also direct the Corps and other agencies to undertake
activities in response to flooding and other national emergencies, as part of FEMA’s
implementation of the National Response Framework.9
Engineering Pamphlet EP 1165-21-1 (1999).
7 As discussed earlier, the term 100-year flood is the flood elevation that has a 1% chance
of being equaled or exceeded annually. It is not the flood that will occur once every 100
years; 100-year floods can occur more than once in a relatively short period of time. The
1994 “Galloway Report” (see note 15) uses an analogy of a bag of 100 marbles where 99
are clear and 1 is black. Every time you pull out a black marble would be equivalent to a
100-year flood, but the black marble is replaced and the bag is shaken up before you draw
again. So, it is possible, but not likely, you might draw the black marble two or three times
in a row or with greater frequency than only one time in 100 draws.
8 Although the Corps’ account paying for these activities may receive some appropriations
in the annual Energy and Water Development Appropriations acts, this initial appropriation
is often supplemented with emergency appropriations specific to the emergency being
9 For more information, see CRS Report RL33053, Federal Stafford Act Disaster
Assistance: Presidential Declarations, Eligible Activities, and Funding, by Keith Bea.
A Flood Risk Framework
Hurricane Katrina and recent midwestern flooding demonstrate that not only
property damage but also significant risks to life, economic disruption, and other
social hardships occur during floods. Flood risk is a composite of three factors:
!vulnerability, which allows a threat to cause consequences (e.g.,
level of protection provided by levees and dams, their reliability, and
location within a floodplain);10
!threat of an event (e.g., probability of a Category 5 hurricane storm
surge or a 200-year flood affecting a particular location); and
!consequence of an event (e.g., property damage, loss of life,
economic loss, environmental damage, reduced health and safety,
and social disruption).
Reducing Vulnerability and the 100-Year Flood. In the United States,
the 1% annual chance flood, more commonly known as the 100-year flood, is a
standard often used as a basis for identifying, mapping, and managing flood hazards.
For example, the NFIP and most state and local governments use location in the 100-
year floodplain or similar coastal zone inundation areas as triggers for various
requirements. The 100-year flood standard was established at the recommendation
of a group of experts in the late 1960s. “It was selected because it was already being
used by some agencies, and it was thought that a flood of that magnitude and
frequency represented a reasonable probability of occurrence and loss worth
protecting against and an intermediate level that would alert planners and property11
owners to the effects of even greater floods.” The adoption of the 100-year flood
standard in many respects guides perceptions of what is an acceptable level of
vulnerability. The 100-year flood standard is a vulnerability standard, and not a risk
standard. Thus, the question of whether the 100-year flood standard combined with
current threat and consequence information results in an acceptable level of risk
remains largely unaddressed; this question is especially relevant for low probability,
high consequence events such as a Category 4 hurricane hitting a major urban center.
The attempt to provide at least 100-year flood protection often drives local
floodplain management and infrastructure investments, resulting in a measure of
equity within and across communities. That equity in vulnerability, however, results
in uneven levels of risk because flooding of different communities has different
consequences, such as differences in the potential loss of life, social disruption,
structures damaged, and economic impact because of variations in land use and
10 For more information on this three-part hazard risk framework, see CRS Report RL32561,
Risk Management and Critical Infrastructure Protection: Assessing, Integrating, and
Managing Threats, Vulnerabilities, and Consequence, by John Moteff.
11 Association of State Flood Plain Managers, Reducing Flood Losses: Is the 1% Chance
(100-year) Flood Standard Sufficient?(Washington, DC: 2004).
The National Flood Insurance Program does not differentiate between 100-year
flood protection provided by a flood control structure and flood protection resulting
from natural topography and hydrology. As a result, development behind levees and
downstream of dams providing 100-year flood protection is not designated as located
in a “special flood hazard area,” thus freeing occupants from flood insurance
requirements. While the NFIP largely presumes that levees, dams, and other flood
control structures will not fail, their presence does not entirely eliminate an area’s
vulnerability to flooding.
The residual flood risk behind levees or downstream of dams remains largely
unaccounted for in the NFIP and often is not incorporated into individual, local, and
state decision-making. Residual risk is the portion of risk that remains after flood
control structures have been built and other damage-reducing measures have been
taken. Risk remains because of the likelihood of the measures’ design being
surpassed by floods’ intensity and of structural failure of the measures. Often when
the designs of flood control structures are surpassed or when structures fail for other
reasons, the resulting flood is catastrophic, as shown by the floodwall breaches in
New Orleans (LA) with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The damaging consequences of
floods increase as development occurs behind levees and below dams; ironically, this
development may occur because of the flood protection provided. The nation’s risk
in terms of lives lost, economic disruption, and property damage is increased by
overconfidence in the level and reliability of structural flood protection.
Next Step: A Risk Management Approach? Investments in flood control
measures, such as dams and levees, and emergency response activities have resulted
in a decreasing trend (excluding the deaths associated with Hurricane Katrina and
most recent midwestern floods) in lives lost to flooding since the 1920s; during the
same period, property damage due to flooding has been increasing. Through the
NFIP, the federal government attempts to promote flood-hazard awareness and
damage-reducing practices, as well as to assist individuals in managing flood losses.
While this produces clear benefits for moderate floods, some stakeholders are
concerned that structural flood control measures and the NFIP together may
contribute to a false sense of security for individuals and communities. This sense
of security may foster decisions to locate in potentially hazardous areas, thus
increasing the national vulnerability to flood losses.
The 2008 midwestern floods and Hurricane Katrina have contributed to interest
in fundamental reexaminations of the approach to managing floodwaters. Some of
the questions raised are: Do current policies, programs, practices, and investments
result in an acceptable level of aggregate risk for the nation? Do they promote wise
use and investments of the nation’s floodplains and coasts?
Risk management is being increasingly viewed as a method for setting priorities
for managing some hazards in the United States. Because floodplain and coastal
development are largely managed by local governments, some aspects of national
flood risk management likely would be unwelcome and infeasible, and could be
perceived as resulting in an inequitable distribution of flood protection. For example,
if floods in large urban concentrations are perceived as representing a greater risk for
the nation, federal resources may be directed away from protecting smaller
communities and less-populated states. Two of the concerns raised in discussions
of greater emphasis on risk analysis in the development and design of specific
projects are that risk analysis may result in lower levels of protection being
implemented in some areas, and that information and knowledge are insufficient to
perform an adequate analysis. However, an argument can be made that the federal
government has an interest in reducing risks resulting in national consequences, and
in prioritizing federal involvement and appropriations accordingly.
Factors complicating the determination of the nation’s flood risk include
changing conditions and incomplete information. For example, many flood control
projects were built decades ago using the available data, technologies, and scientific
knowledge of the period that may have underestimated flood hazards for particular
areas. Similarly, there are issues with changes in risk over time due to processes such
as land loss, subsidence, sea-level rise, reduced natural buffers, urban development,
and infrastructure aging. For existing dams, there is some information on
consequences of failure as measured by loss of life, economic loss, environmental
loss, and disruption of lifeline infrastructure (such as bridges and power grids);
however, the database with this information only tracks the amount and type of
losses, not the likelihood of failure.12
A risk-reduction approach for organizing federal flood-related investments
likely would incorporate many structural and nonstructural flood management
measures already being considered and implemented, but change their priority and
mix. Options considered in a risk-centered approach may include shifting federal
policy toward wise use of flood-prone areas (e.g., rules or incentives to limit some
types of development in floodplains), incorporating residual risk and differences in
riverine and coastal flood risk into federal programs (e.g., residual risk premiums as
part of the National Flood Insurance Program), creating a national inventory and
inspection program for levees, promoting greater flood mitigation and damage
mitigation investments, re-evaluating operations of flood control reservoirs for
climate variability and uncertainty, and investing in technology and science for
improved understanding of flooding threats.
The Levee Challenge. Hurricane Katrina brought national attention to the
issue of levee and flood wall reliability and different levels of protection provided by
flood damage reduction structures, particularly those protecting concentrated urban
and population centers. A 1982 National Research Council report stated that levee
overtopping or failure was estimated to be involved in approximately one-third of all
flood disasters, and that the nation’s dam inspection program suggests that a large13
percentage of locally built levees are likely poorly designed and maintained. How
to address levee reliability and various levels of protection remains at issue.
Many levees protecting today’s communities and agricultural investments
originally were planned and constructed beginning nearly a century ago (or more than
a century ago) by local interests attempting to reclaim land to make it productive for
12 For information on dam safety, see CRS Report RL33108, Aging Infrastructure: Dam
Safety, by Nic Lane.
13 National Research Council, A Levee Policy for the National Flood Insurance Program,
(U.S. Dept. of Commerce: Oct. 1982).
agriculture and other uses. Rather than each landowner building separate levees,
landowners often consolidated their resources by forming a levee district. As a
consequence of this history, many of today’s physical constructions and
configurations, as well as institutional arrangements, for flood protection have roots
distinct from their current use as flood protection for development. Most levees
currently are operated by a levee district or some other special or general local
government. For the most part, municipalities serving concentrated urban populations
have assumed flood control responsibilities, while special levee districts remain
abundant in rural and agricultural areas. Note, however, that there are exceptions to
An issue that may limit government entities’ interest in levee construction,
maintenance, and possibly inspection responsibilities is liability for flood damages.
A principal source of concern may stem from the uncertainty related to the
implications of Paterno v. State of California, which held the State of California
liable for a levee it did not build, but operated as part of a state-sponsored levee
system.14 The issue of federal liability for damages is discussed in CRS Report
RL34131, Federal Liability for Hurricane Katrina-Related Flood Damage, by
Cynthia Brougher and Kristina Alexander.
Flood Management Issues in the 110th Congress
A Legislative Response to Katrina’s Lessons: Factoring in Safety.
In the first omnibus Water Resources Development Act (WRDA, which is the
legislative authorization vehicle for the Corps) enacted after Hurricane Katrina —
WRDA 2007 (P.L. 110-114) — Congress addressed a number of policy changes and
authorized numerous flood and storm damage reduction projects and project
modifications. WRDA 2007 included the following provisions specifically related
to flood-related policies:
!Water Resources Principles and Guidelines (§2031) —
This provision states a national water resources planning policy that
includes avoiding unwise use of floodplains and flood-prone areas,
and requires the Corps to update by 2010 the guidelines it uses for
planning and implementing Corps water resources projects.
!Water Resources Priorities Report (§2032) —
Ths provision requires the President submit to Congress a report by
2010 on the vulnerability of the nation to flood damages, including
the risk to human life, which is to include assessments of current
programs and recommendations for improvements.
!Planning (§2033) —
This provision makes changes to Corps planning activities, including
requirements that the economic analysis of flood damage reduction
14 See Paterno v. State of California,2003 Cal. App. LEXIS 1771 (2003) pet. for rev. denied,
App. LEXIS 4319 (2002) pet. for rev. denied, 2002 Cal. LEXIS 6194 (Sept. 18, 2002).
projects consider the risk that remains behind levees and floodwalls,
upstream and downstream impacts, and equitable analysis of
structural and nonstructural alternatives.
!Safety Assurance Review (§2034) —
This provision requires that the design and construction of Corps
flood and storm damage reduction projects be independently
reviewed by experts to assure public health, safety, and welfare.
!National Levee Safety Program (Title IV) —
This title creates a Committee on Levee Safety to make
recommendations to Congress by mid-2008 for a national levee
safety program; however, the committee has not yet been funded.
The title also requires the Corps to establish and maintain a database
with an inventory of the nation’s levees by 2009 and to inspect
federally constructed and other levees.
How these changes are implemented over the next few years may affect the nature
of the federal investment in flood and storm damage infrastructure and mitigation
Selected Remaining Issues. The 2005 hurricane season and the 2008
midwestern floods have focused the nation’s attention once again on issues that flood
experts have debated for decades. The devastation of these events renewed public
concerns about reliability of the nation’s aging flood control levees and dams. The
debate over what is an acceptable level of risk — especially for low-probability,
high-consequence events — and who should bear the costs to reduce the flood risk
(particularly in the case of levees) is taking place not only in the affected states, but
nationally. The concerns being raised range widely, including interest in providing
more protection for concentrated urban populations, risk to the nation’s public and
private economic infrastructure, support for reducing vulnerability by investing in
natural buffers, equity in protection for low-income and minority populations,
consistency in and the form of flood insurance and disaster aid, and the level of
federal, state, and local investment in structural and nonstructural flood damage
Response to the 2005 hurricane season and previous midwestern floods included
discussions of expanding mitigation activities (such as floodproofing structures and
buyouts of structures on the most flood-prone lands), investing in efforts to restore
natural flood and storm surge attenuation, and assuring vigilant maintenance of
existing flood control structures, as well as interest in new and augmented structural
flood protection measures. Although major flood events, generally spur these15th
discussions, the policy changes implemented often are incremental. The 110
15 After the Midwest Flood of 1993, the Interagency Floodplain Management Review
Committee was directed to evaluate the performance of floodplain management and make
recommendations in current policies and programs of the federal government. The resultingst
1994 report, titled Sharing the Challenge: Floodplain Management in the 21 Century, often
Congress, like previous Congresses, faces a challenge in reaching consensus on
whether and how to proceed on anything other than incremental change because of
the wealth of constituencies and communities affected by federal flood policy.
Another practical challenge is the division of congressional committee jurisdictions
over the federal agencies and programs involved in flood mitigation, protection, and
There are many questions that remain about how events unfolded in the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and much information that is still needed to
understand how to apply and communicate nationally the lessons in the Gulf and
midwestern states learned about flood risk and disaster preparedness and response.
Although there is no way to protect against all flood risk, many contend that more
information is needed to evaluate flood risk, to understand the reliability and residual
risk of structural flood protection, and to incorporate the full range of flood
consequences into local, state, and federal decision-making and programs.
called the “Galloway Report,” for the Committee’s chair, includes the Committee’s
recommendations; the report is available at [http://eros.usgs.gov/sast/2P-00526.PDF].
16 Several different congressional committees could potentially claim jurisdiction over
elements of comprehensive change in federal flood policy. For a discussion of jurisdictional
issues in the House, see CRS Report 98-175, House Committee Jurisdiction and Referral:
Rules and Practice, by Judy Schneider; for Senate jurisdiction, see CRS Report 98-242,
Committee Jurisdiction and Referral in the Senate, by Judy Schneider.