Levee conditions to be made public on Army Corps of Engineers database

WASHINGTON – Tulsa-area residents will be able to check on the condition of local levees and their potential risks with a national database being rolled out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Emphasizing that the database will be dynamic and receive regular updates, Eric Halpin, a special assistant with the Corps for dam and levee safety, explained Monday that the effort will begin with information on levees under his agency.

That includes more than 14,000 miles of levees, but Halpin said the Corps manages only about 10 percent of the levees in the country.

Under the law passed following the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, he said, information on roughly 90 percent of levees located across the United States will be provided only on a voluntary basis by states, local governments and other entities with their own levees.

Halpin predicted others will be open to sharing that information because of the value such a national database would offer them.

“We are going to make as much of this information available to as many people as possible,” he said.

Eventually that will cover inspection information, including information that will help those living near levees to assess the level of risk.

Halpin said, however, information about specific deficiencies that could be exploited to help a “bad guy to do his job” will be held back.

Newly appointed local levee commissioner Todd Kilpatrick said “unacceptable” condition ratings on several levees in Tulsa have been in place for several years.

“There is always a concern,” Kilpatrick said, adding that getting federal funding to bring the levees up to date continues to be a major issue for local officials.

Information on the local levees has always been available upon request to the public, he said.

Asked about the reaction the public may have to the ratings of local levees, Corps spokesman Pete Pierce said levee safety and communicating flood risk is a shared responsibility among federal, state, local and private partners.

Pierce said the information also was crucial so that individuals can make well-informed decisions and take appropriate action.

“The National Levee Database is one of the tools available for residents working or living behind a levee to understand levees are a component of flood risk management and do not eliminate flood risk,” he said. “Even robust and resilient levees can be overtopped or breached by a flood event.”


By Jim Myers of the World Washington Bureau

Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=335&articleid=20111025_16_A9_WASHIN77378