Frequently Asked Questions

Who oversees the North Kansas City Levee District?

The North Kansas City Levee District is governed by a five-member Board of Supervisors. Board members must own property within the protected area and are elected by the landowners for a term of 5 years. This practice helps to ensure that the levee system is maintained to high standards. With only landowners eligible to serve on the Board, the decision makers have a vested interest in how the levee system is operated and maintained. Every person on the Board has the same concerns about flooding as you do.


What area is protected by the levee?

Levee District Protection
Figure 1 – Protected Area of the North Kansas City Levee Unit

Figure 1 shows the area protected by the North Kansas City Levee Unit. The levee protects about 2,930 acres of land and includes portions of North Kansas City and Kansas City, Missouri. There are approximately 1,800 properties protected. Of those properties, about 840 are residential. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has estimated that the total value of assets protected is in the range of $4 billion. If you own property in this area, then you are afforded protection from flooding.


When is the greatest risk of flooding?

Because of the snowmelt in the Upper Missouri River Basin and Spring rainfall, April, May and June are months that are most favorable for flooding conditions on the Missouri River.


Does the levee eliminate my risk of flooding?

No. The levee greatly reduces your risk of flooding but does not eliminate it altogether. Historically, the levee system has performed well and has provided the intended protection.


How can I monitor river conditions?

Both the USGS and then National Weather Service post river gage readings online. The National Weather Service publishes the current stage and provides a short term forecast for Kansas City at the following url:

https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=eax&gage=kcdm7&view=1,1,1,1,1,1

River Forecast
Figure 2 – National Weather Service Gage Information for the Missouri River at Kansas City.

If you do not want to type that in, just do a Google search for “Missouri river gage Kansas City” and select the top search result.

Once at the web site, you should find a graph that shows the past, present, and forecast stages for the Missouri River at Kansas City. Figure 2 shows an example of the information presented. You must understand that the forecast is only a prediction and is subject to change. The information is update daily.


If the river exceeds flood stage, will I be flooded?

Not typically. You would only be flooded in the unlikely event of a levee breach. The purpose of the levee is to prevent flooding of low-lying areas when the river comes up. When the river exceeds the flood stage, the levee starts to do its job. It is not uncommon for the river to exceed flood stage. In recent history, the flood stage has been exceeded in 1993 when the river crested at 48.8 feet, and in 1995, 1999, 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2019. Of the floods that have occurred since the 1993 Flood, the highest stage recorded was in 2007 when the river crested at 35.47 feet.


Can I experience other types of flooding at my property?

Yes. The protected area is low-lying and is very flat. Intense rainfall events that occur in North Kansas City can cause shallow flooding within the interior of the levee. This can occur when the capacity of the storm sewer system is exceeded. The levee does not provide protection from this type of flooding.


What is meant by the term “Flood Stage”?

Flooded Bridge
Figure 3 - Missouri River near Flood Stage at the I-35 bridge in North Kansas City.

A river reaches flood stage when the flow in river starts to leave the main channel and starts to flow in the floodplain. For the Kansas City reach, a river stage of 32 feet is considered the flood stage. The depth of flow is measured by a gage mounted on the Hannibal River Bridge. Figure 3 shows the river near flood stage at the I-35 bridge in North Kansas City. The water has left the main channel and there is shallow flooding between the river and the levee.


What is my risk from flooding?

The North Kansas City Levee District does not assess risk for properties within the protected area. Our single responsibility is to operate and maintain the system. You must assess your own risk related to living, working or owning property within the area protected by the North Kansas City Levee Unit. The levee system was designed to pass the 0.2 percent annual chance of occurrence (500-year) flood event in the Missouri River, and the District strives to maintain the system to the highest standards. The levee system has historically performed with satisfaction under several large flood events which include the 1951 and 1993 Floods. During all flood events since its construction in 1950, there has never been a failure or an evacuation from a flood on the Missouri River.


Should I purchase flood insurance for my property?

Those located within the protected area should understand that a risk of flooding, while greatly reduced, is never entirely eliminated. For this reason, the North Kansas City Levee District encourages property owners within the protected area to understand the risks to property and to purchase flood insurance. While the purchase of flood insurance is encouraged, the North Kansas City Levee District does not mandate it.


I see on the news that there is a lot of flooding happening north of Kansas City. Should I be worried?

Flooding in the northern portions of the Missouri River Basin are always of concern, but these events do not always result in flooding in Kansas City. If you live, work or own property within the area protected by the levee, then you are provided a certain level of protection from flooding. We recommend that you monitor the forecast for the Missouri River at Kansas City gage and pay attention to local conditions.


Why is it flooding in St. Joseph but not here in Kansas City?

The reason why one part of a river floods and another does not is a complicated discussion in watershed hydrology. However, the simplest answer is that the North Kansas City Levee Unit is designed for a very large flood. It has been designed to withstand simultaneous flooding from both the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. When only one of the two river systems flood, we experience only mild to moderate flooding.


Can I drive on the levee to see what is going on?

We prefer that you did not. That is why there is a fence. The levee is patrolled during times of flooding and we cannot allow unauthorized access to the public.


Does the North Kansas City Levee District have a plan of action during a floods?

Yes. There is a very detailed Emergency Action Plan that we follow. The plan was originally developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since the 1993 Flood, the plan has been frequently updated and improved upon. The monitoring efforts and actions that need to be taken increase as the river stages rise. Until river stages reach 37 feet, our efforts are only to monitor the condition of the levee.


When should I evacuate?

We understand that if you live, work or own property behind the levee, times of flooding can be stressful. The North Kansas City Levee District will call for a mandatory evacuation when there is either an imminent chance of failure or when the river is forecasted to exceed a stage of 48.8 feet. If a flood is severe enough but does not meet the mandatory evacuation requirements, a call for voluntary evacuation could be issued as a precaution. The decision for evacuation lies with the Emergency Management Directors for the cities of North Kansas City and Kansas City, Missouri.


How do I know that the levee system is safe and reliable?

No levee system can completely eliminate the risk from flooding. There is always a chance that something can go wrong. However, the North Kansas City Levee District takes great effort to operate and maintain the levee system to the standards prescribed by the USACE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Our efforts include the following:

  • We collect a sufficient amount of money from the property owners to properly operate, maintain and improve the system. If you are a property owner, then you help contribute to keep the levee system reliable.
  • We review plans for work near the levee system for compliance with USACE guidelines.
  • We conduct quarterly inspections of the levee system to assess maintenance deficiencies.
  • We correct maintenance deficiencies in a timely manner.
  • We keep the levee mowed, free of trees and free of burrowing animals.
  • We conduct regular training for Flood Fight activities in cooperation with the City.
  • We plan, budget and implement routine maintenance in accordance with our Operations and Maintenance Manual.
  • The USACE conducts an annual, routine inspection to identify maintenance concerns.
  • The USACE conducts detailed, periodic inspections approximately every 5 years.

What does the North Kansas City Levee District see as the greatest risk?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluates risk and reliability of all flood control systems under its supervision. Most of the risk drivers that were identified for the North Kansas City Levee Unit have been addressed in recent years with capital improvement projects. There is one outstanding issue with the evacuation plan for the protected area. While each city within the protected area has a general evacuation plan in place, the USACE has noted that these plans are not specific to an evacuation associated with a levee breach. The North Kansas City Levee District is currently working with the City of North Kansas City to refine their evacuation plan to resolve this issue.

The USACE has become more diligent in its oversight of levee systems over the past decade. The District has also changed in the way it manages the system. Operation and maintenance efforts are more proactive; no maintenance is ever deferred. The District has been hesitant to increase its benefit assessments but understands that gradual adjustments must be made in order to meet the ever-increasing standards. Fortunately, the federal government is also funding more projects to improve levee systems. Both the Harlem and National Starch Underseepage Projects were completed in 2013 with the assistance of federal funding. With these additions, the system is likely more reliable today than when it was first constructed.


How are Board Members Elected?

Board Members are elected for a term of 5 years by the property owners within the protected area. Elections are held every February at the annual Land Owner’s Meeting.


Who pays for the operation and maintenance of the Levee District?

Property owners within the protected are of the levee are assessed a yearly tax based on property value.


What is the relationship between the Levee District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

While considered a federal levee, the system is owned and operated by the North Kansas City Levee District. The Corps of Engineers only provides technical guidance and oversight. It is the Levee District’s responsibility to see that the system is maintained in accordance with Corps of Engineers’ standards.


What is the overall condition of the levee system?

Every spring, the Corps of Engineer conducts a formal inspection of the protective works. During that inspection, deficiencies to be corrected are identified. The overall system condition is rated as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair or Poor. Historically, the North Kansas City Levee District has received a Very Good rating.


Why must I submit plans and specifications for review when working near the levee?

The Levee District is not a codes enforcement agency. We ask to review plans and specifications for work within the “critical zone” of the levee because of the special conditions that occur when the river floods. We review plans to ensure that the materials used and construction practices used are not detrimental to the integrity of the levee. Our review also determines whether or not the new construction conforms to the guidelines prescribed by the Corps of Engineers.


What is the “Critical Zone” of the levee?

During a flood event, the water in the river is higher than the ground behind the levee. The water will try to equalize by flowing through the sands beneath the levee and into the protected area. If this pressurized groundwater find an open path, it has the potential to erode the levee foundation and cause damage. The critical zone is an area along the levee where the influences of this pressurize groundwater is the greatest. It is generally defined as 300 feet riverward and 500 to 1000 feet landward of the levee.