Flood Risk Management and Levees: A Federal Primer [Updated June 20, 2008]   [open pdf - 109KB]

"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. Further, 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. 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."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL33129
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