National Levee Safety Program Gets Some Love in the FY20 Minibus

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Tis the season for appropriations! The fiscal year 2020 (FY20) appropriations process is well underway, and the House of Representatives passed the first minibus of FY20 spending bills, H.R. 2740, which contained a blockbuster win for ASCE: increased funding for the National Levee Safety Program (NLSP)! Although the minibus does not fund the program at its full authorization of $79 million, the $15 million it provides for the inventory portion of the program is triple the amount it received in FY19. Additionally, Rep. Bera (D-CA) offered an amendment to increase funding to the levee inventory portion of the program by an additional $3 million – bringing the total to $18 million!

ASCE Key Contacts played an integral role in achieving this success. Here’s just how much of a pivotal role they played:  fully funding this program was on the list of “asks” that 2019 Legislative Fly-In discussed when on Capitol Hill. ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave our nation’s levee infrastructure a grade of “D” and recommends fully funding the NLSP as one way to raise the grade.

In addition to member advocacy, ASCE sent several appropriations request letters to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water and Subcommittee on Homeland Security seeking full funding of the program in FY20, and we led a similar request letter with our partners on the Levee Safety Coalition. The Society also helped garner the support of 51 bipartisan Members of Congress for an NLSP funding request letter championed by Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Westerman (R-AR).

The National Levee Safety Program was first authorized in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014 (PL 113 – 121 Sec. 3016) to promote consistent safety standards, create levee safety guidelines, and provide funding assistance to states and regional districts for establishing participating levee safety programs. America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 reauthorized the program through FY2023 (PL 115 – 270 Sec. 1144).

Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been able to inventory 13,700 miles of levees under USACE’s authority and another 15,400 miles of levees maintained by other federal, state, or local agencies in the National Levee Database (NLD), much work must be done to in inventory—determining the location and condition—of all the levees outside of USACE’s authority.

With nearly two-thirds of Americans living in a county with at least one levee and more than half of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of a coast with continued development in floodplains, levees play a critical public safety role. Fully appropriating the program at $79 million is crucial to protecting lives, communities, critical infrastructure systems, and trillions of dollars of property.

Next up: the Senate Appropriations Committee will release its FY20 spending bills. In addition to sending appropriations request letters to the House Appropriations Committee, ASCE also sent letters to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water and Subcommittee on Homeland Security. 

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