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Northwestern Division History

Division CoinIts coin of the realm echoes the heroes, history and hard work of a region integral to the development and settlement of the West. Where once this frontier fired the imagination of Thomas Jefferson and tested the resourcefulness of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, its 21 st century challenges are answered today by the nearly 5,000 hardy spirits of the Northwestern Division.

The territory explored by Lewis and Clark remains awesome in its geographical breadth, economic, political and cultural diversity. Nearly 2,000 miles wide, present-day Northwestern Division envelops 14 states, 48 Congressional districts and more than 90 sovereign tribal nations, making it the largest of the Corps' eight division offices. Two of the country’s longest rivers – the Missouri and Columbia – drain nearly one million square miles within its boundaries that stretch from Seattle to St. Louis. Its civil works, military, and environmental programs surpass $3 billion annually.

The formation of the new Northwestern Division was a long time coming. In the early 1990s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to take a hard look at its missions, capabilities, customers, workforce and funding projections. After lengthy study and review, Congress passed legislation reducing the number of division offices.

For purposes of geographical balance, regional interface and similarity of issues, the North Pacific and Missouri River divisions were officially realigned and combined into one division in April 1997. Division headquarters offices were lodged in Portland, Oregon, with a regional headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Northwestern Division Commander and Division Engineer directs all USACE activities in this area - containing more than one-quarter of the nation’s land mass - providing direction and guidance for five subordinate district offices, each headed by a military officer and military deputy, located in Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Walla Walla, Washington. The Division office also oversees the upward coordination of technical policy and budgetary issues that cross district boundaries and interfaces with other Federal and state agencies, congressional leaders, key stakeholders and international commissions.

The Northwestern Division, as all other USACE divisions, is organized to manage its districts’ civil works activities based on river basins rather than state boundaries. Its primary civil works missions encompass flood damage reduction, navigation, hydropower, fish and wildlife, water quality, irrigation, recreation, and disaster response. Within its jurisdiction are 77 dams and reservoirs, 29 hydropower plants, and 1,600 miles of navigable channels.

Military boundaries, in contrast, are organized along state lines. Major military programs include providing design and construction support to 55 major Army and Air Force installations and dozens of smaller ones. Northwestern Division also manages more than two million acres of military real estate for the Department of Defense.

An Environmental, Interagency and International Services program provides environmental restoration and cleanup of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive sites for the military, Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies. In recent years, Northwestern Division volunteers have stepped to the forefront in support of the Overseas Contingency Operations and the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, lending their skills to the reconstruction efforts.

While USACE districts have civil works and military missions, they are frequently distinguished by the nature and amount of civil or military work they perform. In Northwestern Division, the districts that have a preponderance of military and environmental work are Kansas City, Omaha, and Seattle. The Portland and Walla Walla districts tend to have larger civil works programs. In all cases and from all quarters, the five Northwestern Division districts consistently achieve top marks for mission execution, customer satisfaction, and quality products.

As you explore our website, discover first hand why the men and women of the “Lewis and Clark Division” lead the vanguard of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Northwestern Division Timeline

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1907 Kansas City District formed
1933 Missouri River Division established: headquaters in Kansas City, Mo.
1934 Omaha District formed
1939 Kanopolis Dam started
1940 Construction completed on Fort Peck Dam
1942 Division offices move to Omaha, Neb.
1943 Construction starts on nine VA hospitals
1944 Flood Control Act authorizes Pick Sloan Plan
1945 Rivers and Harbors Act authorizes nine-foot navigation channel
1948 First Missouri River agriculture levee started
1952 Construction completed on Harlan County Dam
1953 MRD creates Reservoir Control Center
1953 Ft. Randall Dam becomes operational
1955 Construction completed on Garrison Dam
1955 Construction started on Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs
1955 Gavin's Point Dam becomes operational
1956 Planning starts on NORAD headquarters
1959 Construction completed on Tuttle Creek Dam
1960 MRD Reservoir Control publishes first Missouri River Master Water Control Manual
1962 Oahe Dam dedicated by President John F. Kennedy
1964 Construction completed on Big Bend Dam
1967 Missouri River main stem system fills to desired levels for the first time
1982 MRD designated Hazardous Toxic and Radioactive Waste National Design Center
1990 MRD designs and constructs Army Engineers School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
1993 MRD personnel battle flooding that kills 47 people, damages 20 million acres and causes $11 billion in damages in nine Midwestern states.
1997 MRD and NPD become Northwestern Division
1871 Portland Engineers Office opens (later becomes Portland District)
1896 Seattle District formed
1901 Division formed: headquarters in San Francisco, Calif.
1918 Columbia River 300-foot-wide, 30-foot-deep navigation channel opens
1931 North Pacific Division merges into Pacific Division
1938 First multipurpose project on Columbia River opens at Bonneville Dam
1940 Division begins WWII support
1941 First of Willamette River projects opens at Fern Ridge
1943 ALCAN Highway completed
1946 Alaska District established; North Pacific Division returns to Portland
1948 Walla Walla District created
1953 McNary Dam put in service
1955 Albeni Falls and Chief Joseph dams become operational
1957 The Dalles Dam replaces the Dalles-Celilo canal
1961 Columbia River Treaty with Canada signed; Ice Harbor Dam opens
1964 Alaska Earthquake recovery
1968 John Day and Lower Monumental dams begin operations
1970 Little Goose Dam completed
1974 Dworshak Dam put in service
1975 Lower Granite and Libby dams put in service
1977 First of Rogue River projects opens at Lost Creek
1981 Chief Joseph Dam adds 11 generators
1983 Essayons joins the dredge fleet; Bonneville Dam's second powerhouse comes on line
1985 Construction begins on Elk Creek Lake
1986 Contract awarded for Madigan Army Medical Center
1989 NPD assists with Valdez oil spill cleanup
1993 Bonneville Dam's second navigation lock opens
1996 NPD battles Great NW Flood
1997 Division's Lab closes
1997 NPD merges with MRD to form Northwestern Division
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