WASHINGTON, DC - The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2006, which passed the Senate last night, includes an authorization for the first-ever National Levee Safety Program. The levee program was authored by Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) and the Environment and Public Works Committee’s minority members: Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the failure of portions of the levee system in New Orleans, it was evident that the nation’s levees were in need of oversight and improvement. Lacking any basic inventory or design standards, the nation’s levees are a neglected piece of our infrastructure which nonetheless serve a critical role in protecting people and property. On October 6, 2005, just over one month after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, Jeffords and the minority members on the EPW Committee introduced S. 1836, the Gulf Coast Infrastructure Redevelopment and Recovery Act of 2005. The bill proposed a National Levee Safety Program, modeled after the National Dam Safety Program, that would create basic performance standards for our nation’s levee systems, establish an inventory and inspection process for levees throughout the country, and create a National Levee Safety Committee to work with states to ensure that levee systems around the nation provide the protection they should for the communities they protect. The National Levee Safety Program, with some modifications, was passed by the full Senate as part of the Water Resources Development Act of 2006 last night. “Hurricane Katrina highlighted the fact that we have left levees to languish for too long,” said Jeffords, who toured the ravaged area in late March. “We must ensure that our nation’s flood protection’s design standards are strong, that required maintenance occurs, and that we know where improvements are needed.” “I am pleased that the proposal my colleagues and I introduced last year to create the National Levee Safety Program, was today approved by the full Senate,” Sen. Jeffords said. “It was essential that this bill incorporated the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina,” said Sen. Carper. “I am pleased that the Senate supported changes, like this one, that will go a long way toward renewing the public’s trust in the reliability and quality of the work of the Army Corps of Engineers.” “Establishing a strong national levee safety program is a must after the catastrophic failure of the New Orleans levees last year,” said Sen. Clinton. “Better design, inspection and maintenance of our levees is just common sense.”