EM 1110-2-1100 (Part I)
30 Apr 02
Hazardous navigation conditions on the Great Lakes also called for the rapid improvement of harbors. With
the passage of the Rivers and Harbors Act, Congress voted a ,000 appropriation for deepening the channel
at the harbor of Presque Isle (at Erie, Pennsylvania) on Lake Erie (Drescher 1982). Signaling the beginning
of federal involvement in the development of harbors on the Great Lakes, the USACE now maintains over
600 navigation projects throughout these waterways.
One of the USACE's first civil projects on an ocean coast was repairing Long Beach at Plymouth,
Massachusetts. The beach was a long, narrow sand spit that formed the town's harbor. Constantly
endangered by waves and wind, it had been a subject of concern to the citizens of the town as early as 1702,
when they made it a crime to fell its trees or fire the grass. The congressional appropriation of ,000 on
May 26, 1824, "to repair Plymouth Beach in the state of Massachusetts, and thereby prevent the harbour at
that place from being destroyed" initiated the Corps' civil works mission in New England. Corps officers
supervised local agents, who built a cribwork breakwater along the beach's outer shore and erected brush
fences and planted grass to stabilize the sand. Similar projects were undertaken at nearby Duxbury and other
beaches in New England (Parkman 1978). The pattern whereby Corps specialists supervise local contractors
has continued to this day for most civil works projects.
Over the succeeding century and a half, the USACE's role in civil works grew dramatically, in step with the
growth of the nation's population and economy. To adequately cover this interesting story in the CEM would
risk doubling its size, so readers are referred to a series of books that document the history of each district
Presently, USACE officers and a large contingent of non-military government employees maintain a
navigation system of more than 40,000 km (25,000 miles) and 219 locks and dams connecting large regions
of the country. Of the nation's top 50 ports active in foreign waterborne commerce, over 90 percent require
regular dredging (Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center 1999). Over 300 million cubic meters of dredged
material are removed from navigation channels each year. In 1997, the USACE contracted for the dredging
of about half this total (157 million m3, see Figure I-3-1) at coastal sites only. This does not include inland
waterways (Hillyer 1996).
Most inlets and harbors used for commercial navigation in the United States are protected and stabilized by
hard structures. The USACE built most of the structures and is responsible for maintaining even a larger
number since the Federal Government assumed responsibility for some state and local projects. Figure I-3-2
summarizes the locations of the Federal projects (Hillyer 1996).
Many U.S. coastal urban and recreational centers are protected by erosion control and storm damage
reduction projects constructed cooperatively by the USACE, state, and local governments (Figure I-3-3).
Although most of the 83 Congressionally authorized shore protection projects are in densely developed areas,
some were constructed primarily for recreation and are associated with public or park beaches (Sudar et al.
History of Coastal Engineering