US Army Corps of Engineers
Institute for Water Resources

Value to the Nation logo graphic

Value to the Nation

Redirecting...

Value to the Nation: Navigation

Graphic representing U.S. harbors that handled over 10 million tons in 2000. Click for full size picture
Image of U.S. Harbors

Every day thousands of vessels move people, animals, and products across the country via the nation's rivers and harbors. This water traffic is a vital component of the nation's economy. One of USACE's primary missions is to ensure that this traffic can move safely, reliably, and efficiently and with minimal impact on the environment.

USACE's primary navigation responsibilities include planning and constructing new navigation channels and locks and dams, and dredging to maintain channel depths at U.S. harbors and on inland waterways.

The Nation's coastal channels and inland waterways are part of a larger transportation network that includes 25,000 miles of navigable channels and related infrastructure maintained by USACE, as well as publicly and privately-owned marine terminals, intermodal connections, shipyards and repair facilities. USACE maintains 12,000 miles of inland and intracoastal waterway navigable channels, including 218 lock chambers at 176 sites; and 1,067 coastal, Great Lakes, and inland channels and harbors comprising 13,000 miles of channels and 23 locks. Coastal channels and inland waterways maintained by USACE support the Nation's economy, as well as contributing to both state and local government economic development, including job creation efforts.

In partnership with local port authorities, USACE personnel oversee dredging and construction projects at hundreds of ports and harbors at an average annual cost of over $1.3 billion. USACE dredges over 200 million cubic yards of material each year to keep the nation's waterways navigable. Much of this dredged material is reused for environmental restoration projects including the creation of wetlands.

For more information read our Inland Waterway Navigation brochure (pdf, 1.6 MB) and our Deep Water Ports and Harbors brochure (pdf, 1.9 MB), or the Navigation fast facts.

More Information

Collapse All Expand All

Despite the growth in high-tech communication and high-speed transportation the nation's ports and waterways remain the crucial backbone of our economy. Nearly 2.3 billion tons of cargo are shipped to, from or through 41 states each year. USACE navigation services play an essential role in ensuring that commercial goods move smoothly along the distribution chain. Read more…

USACE carefully evaluates the environmental impact of each navigation project it undertakes. It typically performs computer modeling of planned changes to river and estuary systems to fully assess, and limit, the environmental effects of navigation projects before any work begins. Read more…