Institute for Water Resources

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Value to the Nation

Navigation: Environmental Benefits

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.

Other ways that the Corps works to protect the environment when navigation projects are undertaken include:

  • using dredge material as a resource for habitat and wetland creation;
  • reducing disruption and damage to marine species by careful timing of dredging activities; and
  • limiting environmental harm caused by dredging by using high tech instruments to monitor dredge locations and activity.
Graphic of Mode of Transportation. Click for full size picture
Image of a mode
of transportation

Another, less visible environmental benefit of the Corps navigation projects, is that they help limit air pollution emissions by enabling tows with many barges to move cargo long distances on considerably less fuel than trains or trucks would need to move the same amount of cargo the same distance.

A recent example of the Corps environmental efforts related to navigation was a project in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana on the Upper Mississippi River. Maintenance dredging in the area was done using hopper dredges, which must dispose of their dredged material in deep water, making it unavailable for environmental purposes such as marsh creation. This project demonstrated that the use of a dustpan hydraulic dredge could allow for the reuse of dredged material in the area. Approximately 40 acres of deteriorated marsh that had converted to shallow open water was restored as a result.