Navigating and Maintaining the Missouri River

28 May 2018 11:18 AM | Glenda Johnson (Administrator)

Navigation is one of the eight authorized purposes of the Missouri River that mandates the Corps of Engineers (Corps) to manage the navigation channel between Sioux City, Iowa and St. Louis, Missouri. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1945 calls for a 9-foot deep and minimum 300-foot wide channel.  Today, the focus of the Corps’ navigation mission is to provide safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation system for movement of commerce, national security needs and recreation. In order to meet this mission, the Corps focuses on repairs to river structures from damage such as ice, debris, scouring and high water velocity.

While several sections of the Kansas City District play a role in the navigation mission on the Missouri River, the Missouri River Area Office and River Engineering Section ensure the primary needs of the navigation stakeholders are met.  The Missouri River Area Office, located in Napoleon, Missouri, performs operation and maintenance functions or oversees contracts for small river construction projects. A survey crew inspects the channel depth during navigation flow support season and responds to requests or concerns regarding depth or passability.  The River Engineering Section, located in Kansas City, is responsible for inspecting and identifying structures which may require repairs, modification, or development of a new structure. During winter months, the River Engineering Section conducts low water inspections to identify what maintenance actions may need to be addressed along the river and place them on a list to prioritize and schedule for repair.

To better help in maintaining the bank and channel to protect lands and provide opportunities of navigation, the Corps has used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to modernize the 1994 Missouri River Hydrographic Survey books. The Corps has added and modified many river structures since the 1994 data; the updates currently show the full inventory and can help us report project conditions better than before. GIS provides information on the structure type, elevation, length and more.  As such the Corps has developed newer Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project maps, complete with GIS layers. This new mapping standard will help improve with efficiency of inspections and reports in the future.

To better communicate with navigation stakeholders, the Missouri River Area Office distributes daily boat reports via email when traffic is on the river. Information is also shared frequently on the Missouri River Navigation Facebook page. Additionally, the Corps of Engineers, Northwestern Division hosts an annual navigation meeting to bring stakeholders and federal agencies together from across the basin to discuss Missouri River navigation, transport of materials, and the outlook for the upcoming season.  With the available storage expected in mainstem reservoirs, the Corps expects full flow navigation support during the 2018 season.

You can learn more about the Corps of Engineers navigation mission online at:

Article modified and reprinted with permission of the Kansas City District, US Army Corps of Engineers; author Trisha Dorsey, Public Affairs Office


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MOARC promotes the beneficial use of water and land related resources for the Missouri and associated rivers in the areas of    
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