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Risky Levees
Photo: Luis Paredes
Densely populated areas such as Springfield, Mass.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Hartford, Conn., are just some of 146 communities across the United States that have flood protection levees, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Potentially affected properties are valued at billions of dollars.

In the January 29, 2007, USA Today, the problem was identified, “The deficiencies, mostly due to poor maintenance, are forcing communities from Connecticut to California to invest millions of dollars in repairs. If the levees aren’t fixed, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could determine that they are no longer adequate flood controls. If that happens, property owners behind the levees would have to buy flood insurance costing hundreds of dollars a year or more.”

Sheilds Crops and Protects Cities

“Thousands of levees are spread across every state. They range from miles-long levees protecting major cities to small berms shielding crops. Many were built by the corps and turned over to local authorities, which are responsible for maintaining them.

“Local officials fear that some cities cannot afford to make upgrades. Hartford, Conn., spent $5 million last year to meet the corps’ demands for repairs. Otherwise, thousands of properties worth almost $2 billion would have needed flood insurance. City engineer John McGrane says. ‘It’s a tremendous burden.’

“The corps is allowing a one-time, one-year grace period to do the work. . . .”

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