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Value to the Nation


Value to the Nation: Great Lakes Navigation Fast Facts

VTN Fast Facts mapNavigation is USACE's earliest Civil Works mission, dating back to 1824 when Federal laws authorized and funded USACE to improve safety on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and several ports. USACE provides safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems (channels, harbors, and waterways) for movement of commerce, national security needs, and recreation. Activities in the Civil Works Navigation Program include planning, designing, constructing, operating, maintaining, and further improving navigation channels, locks and dams.

The latest Great Lakes Navigation Fast Facts data available is for 2020. Reports can be selected by national, project, USACE Division, or USACE District level.

Great Lakes Navigation Fast Facts Reports

Select 2020 Great Lakes Navigation Fast Facts Reports from the USACE Digital Library collections:

You can select an individual report, or go to a collection of reports. For a list of all reports in a collection, for example, in the project report collection, select "All Project Reports". 

How these numbers were calculated.

Great Lakes Navigation Benefits in Perspective

For the purposes of the Value to the Nation effort, navigation infrastructure has been subdivided into three primary categories: Inland, Coastal, and Great Lakes. Great Lakes navigation refers to the continuous 27-foot deep draft waterway that extends from the western end of Lake Superior at Duluth, MN to the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Atlantic Ocean; a distance of over 2,400 miles. The Great Lakes are technically part of the Coastal Navigation system, but are often separated for purposes of analysis since the two systems tend to operate differently. The Great Lakes Navigation System is a bi-national resource composed of the five Great Lakes, the connecting channels of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The U.S. portion of the system includes 140 harbors (60 commercial; 80 recreational), 2 operational locks, 104 miles of breakwaters and jetties, and over 600 miles of maintained navigation channels. In addition, the Great Lakes navigation system is connected to several other shallow draft waterways (Illinois Waterway, New York State Barge Canal, etc.) to form an important waterborne transportation network, reaching deep into the continent.

The primary National Economic Development (NED) benefit of USACE Great Lakes navigation infrastructure is the reduction in the cost required to transport commodities compared to the next best alternative (rail transportation).