While dealing with record flooding of 2019 that did $6.2-billion in damages, the Midwest divisions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also accomplished their other goals such as modernizing the system of locks and dams along the region's rivers — including the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri — and starting mega projects such as the $1.7-billion Next National Geospatial Agency West campus in St. Louis.
The USACE is a major Army command made up of 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. It's primary mission is managing and overseeing the system of dams, canals, reservoirs and flood protection across the nation and much of its infrastructure is in ENR's 11-state Midwest region. We covered the damage that the 2019 flooding did in Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri and the USACE's "floodfight" response that mobilized USACE personnel and thousands of volunteers, saved lives and helped strengthen communities such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The agency is also responsible for developing public infrastructure that's not connected to waterways such as the Next NGA West project in St. Louis, a new headquarters for the federal agency responsible for collecting and maintaining the federal government's geospatial mapping data.
The USACE is in the midst of an ongoing program to modernize locks and dams along several of its rivers, including the Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River near its confluence with the Mississippi. It's one of many projects where the Corps faces difficulties such as repairing or constructing entirely new locks and dams while also keeping a river open to barge and other traffic. The Corps means it when its says it does the jobs no one else can do and high water and flooding has jeopardized regularly planned work as well as shifted attention to threatened infrastructure elsewhere.
No project typifies the challenges the Corps regularly faces more than $999-million Rapid Disaster Infrastructure award that started in 2019 with emergency repairs in the USACE's Northwest division and the Omaha District in particular. The USACE is facing the challenges of a changing climate, the demands of river commerce in a changing economy and the needs of the other agencies it acts as a developer for simultaneously. For facing them all with courage and pride, the editors of ENR were proud to select the USACE as Midwest Owner of the Year and the agency will be featured in the March print edition.