From the Document: "Locally operated levees and the federal programs that assist and accredit them are receiving increasing congressional attention. Congressional authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), expires on September 30, 2011. The pending reauthorization has increased congressional awareness of the link between the condition of locally operated levees, FEMA's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and levee accreditation (which determine which NFIP requirements and premiums apply in an area), and programs providing federal disaster assistance for these levees. Congress is considering whether and how to change current programs, federal funding, and the existing division of levee responsibilities. Options are complicated by the desire to promote state, local, and individual decisions and investments that reduce flood risk; concerns about the local costs associated with NFIP purchase and levee accreditation requirements; and consideration of whether to expand federal responsibilities and potential liability. Even though similar issues also exist for some of the federally operated levees, this report focuses on locally operated levees since these dominate the national levee portfolio. Approximately 22% of U.S. counties across the country, representing almost half of the U.S. population, contain levees. Economic damage from floods in leveed areas ranges between $5 billion and $10 billion annually. Levees play an important role in protecting property against flood damage. More than 100,000 miles of levees may exist, with the federal government operating roughly 2,100 miles. One estimate puts the five-year level of investment needed for new construction or maintenance of the nation's levees at $50 billion."
CRS Report for Congress, R41752