The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works mission is varied and wide-ranging. Its multi-purpose projects provide benefits for navigation, flood risk management, hydropower production, fish and wildlife, environmental stewardship, recreation, irrigation and municipal water supply. The Northwestern Division manages an annual civil works program of more than $900 million, executed by its five district offices in all or parts of 12 states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.
The Corps’ navigation responsibilities are planning and constructing navigation channels, locks and dams, and dredging to maintain channel depths in U.S. harbors and inland waterways. We operate and maintain 25,000 miles of navigable channels and 196 commercial lock and dam sites and are responsible for harbors and waterways in 41 states. In partnership with local port authorities, Corps personnel oversee dredging and construction projects at hundreds of ports and harbors. Ten of the Corps’ 237 locks are located in Northwestern Division — eight on the Columbia/Snake rivers, one on the Willamette River, and one at Lake Washington in Seattle. The Division also maintains 22 deep draft harbors, 20 shallow draft harbors and more than 1,700 miles of navigable waterways in the Columbia and Missouri basins.
Flood Risk Management
Reducing risk and preventing flood-related damages can be accomplished by several means — through structural measures, such as reservoirs, levees, channels, and floodwalls that modify the characteristics of floods; or with non-structural measures, such as flood plain evacuation, floodproofing, and floodway acquisitions that alter the way people use these areas and reduce the susceptibility of human activities to flood risk. Northwestern Division operates 82 flood risk management projects that can store up to 115 million acre-feet of water. Over the years, the projects have helped prevent cumulative damages of nearly $84 billion within its two river basins.
As the largest operator of hydroelectric power plants in the United States, and one of the largest in the world, Corps’ hydropower plants provide 100 billion kilowatt-hours annually, enough power to serve more than 10 million households. The 75 hydropower plants installed at Corps dams and reservoirs produce one-fourth of the nation's hydroelectric power.
Because of hydropower’s significant advantages over other energy sources —clean, efficient, reliable, and renewable — it plays an increasingly important role in meeting the Nation's energy needs. Northwestern Division’s 29 hydropower projects on the Columbia, Snake and Missouri rivers generate about 75 percent of total Corps hydroelectric capacity, supplying electricity to three power marketing agencies whose annual sales exceed $3 billion.
Environmental Enhancement/Fish and Wildlife
Since the 1970s, the Corps’ environmental efforts have grown and evolved from simply protecting fish, wildlife and plant species to a focus on recovering their numbers to become sustainable. The Corps partners with state and federal agencies to expand the scientific knowledge base of the natural environment and evaluate how activities within a watershed may affect protected species. Structural modifications to dams and powerhouses along with changes to river system operations are used to ensure the right things are done for the environment.
The Corps is one of the federal government’s largest providers of outdoor recreational opportunities. It operates more than 4,300 recreational sites at its lakes and projects in 43 states, logging more than 370 million visits per year. State and local park authorities and private interests operate nearly another 2,000 recreation areas on Corps lands. Hundreds of educational and volunteer programs help visitors appreciate the need for conscientious environmental stewardship of the 12 million acres under our control.
The mission of the Corps’ regulatory program is to protect the Nation's waters for current and future generations, while allowing for reasonable economic development. Regulatory efforts protect a wide variety of aquatic resources, including wetlands, rivers, streams, tidal waters, coral reefs, shellfish beds, and the oceans. Our permit process is designed to minimize environmental impacts of construction and dredging activities in U.S. waters and to ensure that such efforts are thoughtful and coordinated.