The Corps has a very active modernization program to meet the nation's future navigation needs. Nearly $5 billion in new construction work is underway, including initiatives to deepen and widen channels at 20 major coastal ports over the next decade. Studies are also underway for channel improvements at many additional ports around the country. Such improvements are essential to accommodate the newest generation of large cargo vessels now entering the world fleet, which require 50 to 55 feet of channel depth. Currently, very few U.S. ports have sufficient channel depth for these ships.
On our inland waterways, work is underway to modernize and increase capacity at more than a dozen locks and dams. Over the next decade, more than half the locks on our waterways will have exceeded their 50-year design lives. Many locks also are approaching their physical capacity, making replacement projects increasingly urgent. Locks of 600 feet or less require many of today's larger tows to be split in half to pass through, leading to costly delays.
The Corps is currently in the process of constructing new, larger locks in several states including Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Corps also is undertaking major renovations of several older lock sites. Together these projects represent a $3.5 billion investment in modernizing the nation's inland waterways. They also include significant investments in environmental restoration and management.
In addition, the Corps is conducting navigation improvement feasibility studies on the Upper Mississippi River, the Illinois Waterway, the Ohio River, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Black Warrior and Tennessee Rivers, and on the Great Lakes. Over the next few years, these studies will identify navigation and environmental actions necessary to ensure the continued viability of these waterways.
Following damage incurred by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Corps began salvage operations, surveys of damage to shipping channels, and dredging operations in order to free restriction of the navigation in the Gulf Coast region. Updates of the status of navigation conditions in the region can be found on the Navigation Updates page of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers web site.