The inland waterway navigation system is essential to the economy of the Midwest and nation. Consequently, one of the Rock Island Districts primary missions given to us by Congress is to maintain navigation and improve channels. The District operates and maintains 582 miles of nine-foot navigation channel and 20 locks and dams that allow for the safe and efficient transport of a wide variety of commodities. Each year, more than 90 million tons of cargo and more than 100,000 boats and barges pass through our locks on both the Mississippi River and Illinois rivers. Therefore, we devote nearly 70 percent of our resources and efforts to operating and maintaining the navigation system.
Flood Risk Management
The flood risk management efforts range from small, local protection projects (levees or non-structural flood risk management measures) to major reservoirs. To address the needs of small, rural communities in the Rock Island District, we have a Continuing Authorities Program, which helps sponsors build smaller, cost-shared projects. We also built and operate three flood protection reservoirs in Iowa at Red Rock, Coralville and Saylorville, and we operate two dry reservoirs east of Peoria, Ill. These flood risk management structures have prevented more than $4 billion of food damages. In addition, these multi-purpose projects are used for fish and wildlife habitat, recreation and water supply.
We are dedicated to protecting the Midwest’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable and necessary development. Our regulatory program ensures that any environmental impact on aquatic resources from construction projects is avoided, minimized, or mitigated. As the lead Corps District for regulatory matters in Iowa and Illinois, we review nearly 1,800 permit requests a year for construction of structures and facilities, and the discharge of dredged and fill material in waterways, wetlands and navigable rivers.
Environmental Protection and Restoration
Our environmental efforts include several programs [including the Upper Mississippi River Restoriation Environmental Management Program (UMRR-EMP), Continuing Authorities Program, Illinois River Critical Restoration Program (Illinois 519) and the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP)]. We provide a combination of planning, design and/or construction of environmental enhancement projects to restore and rehabilitate habitats for fish and wildlife in the backwaters and side channels of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and their tributaries.
As an added benefit to our flood protection and navigation missions, we are able to provide a variety of public recreational opportunities at our three reservoirs and two river projects as well as along the Mississippi on federal land. On the Mississippi River, the District provides boat access, camping, and recreation areas in portions of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. In total, we operate and maintain 97 recreation sites.
Our personnel provide immediate and effective all hazard response and recovery assistance to communities within our District and throughout the nation who are impacted by natural or man-made disasters. We ensure District emergency preparedness through flood system inspections, response teams and emergency equipment readiness, customer participation, and continuous planning and process improvements. Past District support includes emergency clearance of debris, restoration of critical public services and facilities, the deployment of flood fight supplies and technical assistance, structural evaluation of buildings, and damage assessment.
At our Lake Red Rock, Saylorville, and Coralville Lake projects, the reservoirs provide a minimum river flow to maintain downstream water quality during drought periods. In addition, Saylorville Lake has storage reserved for water supply. At Saylorville, the District has granted the Des Moines Waterworks permission to build two water wells on federal property to assist with the City of Des Moines’ water supply, providing 10 to 15 million gallons of water per day. Our reservoirs, as well as the river pools formed by our lock and dam system, provide domestic drinking water and water supply to communities and industries (such as nuclear power plants) throughout the region.
Many Corps projects built for navigation or flood damage reduction have additional uses. At Locks and Dam 15, our hydro turbine generates enough power to operate the locks and dam and the Visitor Center. Our projects also help support hydropower plants in Keokuk, Iowa, and four in Illinois at Peru (Starved Rock), Moline, Rock Island Arsenal, and Lockport. Currently, several interested parties are working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the District to explore the use of our other dams to generate hydropower.
Support for Others
The Corps has the ability to carry out cost-reimbursable work for other federal and state agencies. We provide wetland easement layouts for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, implement flood damage repair for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, navigation channel maintanence to the U.S. Coast Guard, and provide a variety of additional services to other state and federal agencies, local cities and communities.
Throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan we provide the 88th Regional Readiness Command with support on operations, maintenance, repair, and minor construction projects with a project dollar value of less than $750,000 per project. Projects include simple building remodels, boiler replacements, paving, and utility upgrades. Our military support also inlcudes our team of ordnance and explosives experts working for the Corps’ Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Ala. Under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program at Formerly Used Defense Sites, we inspect Army, Navy, and National Guard sites that have already closed, or are slated for closure, to assess ordnance and explosives presence and ensure public safety.