2021 Schnabel Engineering Lecture: Performance of the Federal Flood Control Systems from 2010-2020

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Virginia Tech

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is responsible for flood risk management across the United States. The agency has more than 740 dams and is responsible for more than 15,000 miles of levees. Since 2008, USACE projects have prevented more than $1.2 Trillion in damages from flooding. Although some of this came as a result of dozens of smaller floods, much of that protection came during three events within the last ten years. From 2010 through 2020, the U.S. has had three major inland floods and two coastal events where federal flood protection exists: in 2010 on the Cumberland River, in 2011 on the Missouri, Ohio, White, and Mississippi Rivers, in 2015 on several rivers in Texas and Oklahoma, and in 2017 along the Gulf Coast of the U.S. and its territories in the Caribbean. For many of these locations, these events produced record rainfall and the flood of record. Although the large facilities overall performed as expected, USACE also experienced some operational issues, did a substantial amount of flood fighting, had several incidents, and several failures. We will talk about how dam and levee engineering has changed over the past 20 years by focusing on how increased flooding has affected our approach to flood risk management. We will also discuss how we have changed standard design approaches to accommodate this new approach.

Flood control