The Army Corps of Engineers says 146 U.S. levees pose an unacceptable risk of failing in a major flood. Communities from Connecticut to California are investing millions of dollars in repairs. "The corps and FEMA are saying, 'We've been lax as a nation in our operation and maintenance of these levees, and it's time to tighten up,' " says Larry Larson, director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

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