Whether you live on the banks of a river or hundreds of miles from
one, your life is impacted upon every day by what happens on our nation's
waterways. Our rivers provide affordable transportation for raw materials,
manufactured products and consumer goods; a ready water supply for homes
and businesses; irrigation for farms; recreation; and habitats for plants,
fish and wildlife.
The Corps has the challenging and rewarding job of trying to balance
the many ways our nation's rivers are used in an effort to maximize
the benefits they provide, while at the same time protecting
and restoring these important aquatic ecosystems.
The Red River in Louisiana is a good example of how the Corps seeks
to balance competing priorities. For much of its history the 200+ mile
stretch of the Red River between Shreveport, LA, and the Mississippi
River was a source of frustration to many residents who lived and worked
near it. Commercial tows had a difficult time navigating the river.
As a result, the tremendous economic benefits that it could have brought
to the area were lost. During heavy rains the river was prone to overflowing
its banks, flooding low-lying farmland and towns. And, finally, there
were serious erosion problems on long stretches of the river's banks.
All of that gradually began to change when the U.S. Congress authorized
what has become the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway Project.
Over the past 30 years, the Corps has invested nearly $2 billion in
the project, constructing five locks and dams and dredging a 9-foot
deep, 200-foot wide navigation channel. The Corps also has stabilized
the banks along the 236-mile stretch of river, limiting erosion and
preventing loss of valuable lands. The project has stimulated local
economies and helped generate thousands of jobs by enabling nearly 4
million tons of cargo to move along the waterway every year. By 2046
that number is expected to rise to 16 million tons. The changes also
have greatly reduced the impact of flooding. During one period of heavy
rain in 2001, nearly 1 million acres of land were saved from flood damage
because of the waterway.
The waterway, which began largely as an effort to improve navigation,
has gradually evolved to meet numerous other needs. For example, the
lakes created as part of the project provide recreational opportunities
for more than 2 million people per year. Throughout the project, the
Corps has worked diligently to protect the plants, fish and wildlife
that live in and near the river. Studies indicate that the project has
improved the quality and quantity of fish and waterfowl populations.
The river also has become a major route for migratory birds.
As part of its overall balancing efforts, the Corps is implementing
a regional, watershed approach to rivers
that takes into consideration nearby, related water resources such as lakes, wetlands and coasts.