Navigation is the primary mission of the Rock Island District. Its oldest mission, which dates back to the 4½-foot navigation channel construction in the 1880s, Rock Island District devotes nearly 70 percent of its resources and efforts to operating and maintaining the navigation system.
The inland waterway navigation system is essential to the economy of the Midwest as well as the Nation and world. Rock Island District maintains 314 miles of 9-foot navigation channel on the Mississippi River, including operation of 12 lock and dam sites; and 268 miles on the Illinois Waterway with operation of six lock and dam sites.
The District’s work on this system allows for safe and efficient transport of a wide variety of commodities. Barge traffic traveling through the District’s lock and dam system accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in interstate commerce each year.
Operating the locks and dams is a continuous job as tows and recreational boats can lock through all year long as weather conditions permit. The current 9-foot channel lock and dam system was built in the 1930s with an estimated life span of 50 years. The structures have long outlived their life expectancy but continue to operate 24/7 due to the hard work and dedication of the men and women charged with maintaining the structures. Nearly half of the District’s employees are involved in some part of the maintenance or operation of the lock and dam and navigation system.
The Rock Island District’s waterway navigation system is the second longest of any Corps District and the number of locks and dams it manages also ranks second within the Corps.