Institute for Water Resources

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Value to the Nation


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 the Corps primary missions is to ensure that this traffic can move safely, reliably, and efficiently and with minimal impact on the environment.

The Corps 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 Corps operates and maintains 12,000 miles of inland and intracoastal waterway navigable channels, including 192 commercial lock and dam sites, and is responsible for ports and waterways in 41 states.

In partnership with local port authorities, Corps personnel oversee dredging and construction projects at hundreds of ports and harbors at an average annual cost of over $1.3 billion. The Corps dredges over 250 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

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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 2.5 billion tons of cargo are shipped to, from or through 40 states each year. The Corps navigation services play an essential role in ensuring that commercial goods move smoothly along the distribution chain. Read more…
The Corps 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…
The corps is involved in many activities related to the nation's navigation needs. These include an active modernization program which spans multiple waterways, ports, and locks; and operations in the Gulf Coast to repair hurricane damage. Read more…