As flooding events continue to increase in frequency and intensity, it is essential for the State of Louisiana to continue moving forward in technology and ingenuity for the construction of levee systems.
Since 1718 natural and man-made levee systems in Louisiana have been crucial in attempt to control the “Mighty Mississippi”. The Mississippi River drains 41% of the continental U.S. and more than half of Louisiana’s land is in a flood plain . Therefore, careful planning, construction and maintenance of levee systems in Louisiana must continue to improve.
What is a levee?
According to the Federal Emergency and Management Authority (FEMA) a levee is a “man-made design and construction in accordance with sound engineering practices to contain, control, or divert the flow of water to provide protection from temporary flooding .
Some History on levees:
Before European control, natural processes occurred along the Mississippi River in which sediment deposits created natural levees reaching up to a meter or two in height. . Initially, state government required that farmers and land owners build their own levees with ~10-12 cubic yards per day and reaching 75 feet long in some areas .
Today, with multiple Acts by the United States Congress, levee systems are professionally implemented by multiple entities to promote control and prevent flooding.
Who is Involved:
There is no one entity solely responsible for levee construction and maintenance in Louisiana . Some entities that share the responsibility include but are not limited to the following:
- Army Corps of Engineers
- FEMA (Federal Emergency and Management Authority)
- Public Citizens
- Louisiana Levee Districts
Current Programs including Levee Development and Planning:
- The State of Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan
- The Louisiana Levee Inspection Program
- Mississippi River Levee Raising Project ( Fifth Levee District )
- The Mississippi River Commission The Mississippi River Commission
Necessary Plans for the Future:
The Louisiana Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast 2017 calls for project “construction of a levee to an elevation of 15-35 feet around the Greater New Orleans area from Verret to the Bonnet Carre spillway” .
Incremental Improvements recommended by David Muth (A Director of National Wildlife and Fisheries) include :
- Levee resilience
- Increased water storage capacity inside levees
- Public incentive to participate in building raising or relocation programs
- Restoring the wetland buffers outside levee
A Plan in the year 2009 from Netherland Engineers to CPRA recommended the following :
- Raising levees to protect from a 500 year event or greater around central New Orleans
- Raising levees to 1,000-year levels east of the Industrial Canal and on the West Bank.
- Recommended a new levee and gates along the New Orleans land bridge, into St. Tammany Parish.
As flooding events continue to increase in frequency and intensity, it is essential for the State of Louisiana to continue moving forward in ingenuity for flood prevention, policy, planning, funding, and coastal restoration efforts.
Additional Links regarding Levees:
- FEMA: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1803-25045-4819/st_broomelv.pdf
- St. Charles Parish: http://www.stcharlesparish-la.gov/government/component-pages/faqs/nfip-frequently-asked-questions
 ALBL. “Association of Levee Boards of Louisiana”. 24 April 2018, http://albl.org/
 FEMA, “Levees – Frequently Asked Questions”. 24 April 2018, https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1803-25045-4819/st_broomelv.pdf
 Kemp, Katherine “The Louisiana Environment: The Mississippi Levee System and the Old River Control Structure”. 24 April 2018, http://www.tulane.edu/~bfleury/envirobio/enviroweb/FloodControl.htm
 Rogers, David. “Evolution of the Levee System Along the Lower Mississippi River”. 24 April 2018, http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/levees/Evolution%20of%20the%20Levee%20System%20Along%20the%20Mississippi.pdf
 Schleifstein, Mark. “New Orleans area’s upgraded levees not enough for next “Katrina” engineers say”. 24 April 2018, http://www.nola.com/futureofneworleans/2015/08/new_levees_inadequate_for_next.html