Center for American Progress Action

Ensuring Public Safety by Investing in Our Nation’s Critical Dams and Levees

Ensuring Public Safety by Investing in Our Nation’s Critical Dams and Levees

The combination of extreme weather and flooding resulting from global warming and our aging dam and levee infrastructure means that without action, thousands of lives and communities are at risk and avoidable public costs will rise.

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Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina pushed ashore in Louisiana, devastating the city of New Orleans and crippling an entire region. Massive storm surges overtook the city’s levees and washed away entire neighborhoods, leaving more than 1,800 dead and displacing more than 1 million more. The sum of property damages alone was more than $200 billion, with the overall damage to the regional economy totaling billions more. Making Katrina all the more tragic was the disaster’s preventability—if only those responsible for the region’s storm defenses and levees had taken action in the decades leading up to August 29, 2005.

The costs of this failure to act continue to mount. Since Katrina, repairing and upgrading the levee and flood-protection systems around New Orleans has cost the federal government $14 billion, and expenditures by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for displaced residents have run upwards of $30 billion.

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Keith Miller

Senior Research Associate

Kristina Costa

Senior Fellow

Donna Cooper

Senior Fellow