Navigation is one of the eight authorized purposes of the Missouri River that mandates the Corps of Engineers 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 of Engineers 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. That office works hand-in-hand with the River Engineering Section located in Kansas City, Missouri, 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. Members of the crew note any structures that may be deficient and place them on a list to prioritize and schedule for repair.

To better help the Corps with this process, our Geographic Information Systems section and river engineering have teamed up to modernize the 1994 Missouri River Hydrographic Survey books to newer Missouri River Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project maps, complete with GIS layers. This new mapping standard should help improve with efficiency of inspections and reports.

"This is a major tool we use to both inspect and schedule maintenance," said Mike Chapman, chief of river engineering. "The Corps has added and modified river structures since the 1994 data, so these updates now show the full inventory in GIS and can help us report project conditions better than before. These tell us the structure type, elevation, length and more."

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 all over the basin to discuss relevant topics and the outlook for the upcoming season.

"We are also working on a contract framework to shorten procurement time immensely for maintenance to structures," said James Rudy, Missouri River Area Office operations project manager. "And looking ahead, if weather predictions are correct, we expect full flow support this year."