Will the Army Corps of Engineers Save the Day?


The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently took over construction management of the infamous VA hospital project in Denver. Are the USACE some kind of superheroes? This recent takeover is just one example of a long list of projects managed by USACE over the years. Let’s take a look at who they are and what they’re building around the world.

Who They Are

The USACE traces its history back to 1802, and is made up of civilian and military personnel who provide engineering, design, and construction management services all over the world. The USACE oversees about $20 billion a year in military projects, plus another $4.7 billion annually in federal funding for its Civil Works program, which includes projects like harbor dredging and flood mitigation. They also assist in emergencies, such as restoring infrastructure after natural disasters.

Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

One of the biggest projects handled by the USACE is the construction, maintenance, and operation of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway that runs for 3,000 miles along the East and Gulf coasts of the United States from Norfolk, Virginia through the Florida Keys to Brownsville, Texas.

In Afghanistan

After 9/11, the USACE saw an increase in construction, especially overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. For many of these projects, the USACE acts as a construction agent that follows orders from other agencies. One example of this is the construction of facilities for the Afghan National Army 215th Corps Combat Logistics Brigade (CLB) in a remote district of Shorabak in Helmand Province. The new facilities are intended to help the country be more independent.

In Iraq

Also overseas, the USACE played a sizable role in the reconstruction of Iraq following the war. Over 8,000 construction projects, worth approximately $15 billion, were completed including road and railroad work, port reconstruction, airport projects, school reconstruction, and water treatment and power plant construction.

Hartwell Lake

One of USACE’s noteworthy domestic projects is Hartwell Lake, located on the border of Georgia and South Carolina. The USACE built the lake between 1955 and 1963 for such purposes as flood risk management, water quality, water supply, downstream navigation, hydropower production, and fish and wildlife protection. However, one of the lake’s biggest draws is for public recreation.

Olmstead Locks and Dam

Lastly, the Olmstead Locks and Dam project, currently under construction and expected to be completed by 2024, is situated between Illinois and Kentucky and about 17 miles upstream from where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. In addition to locks and dams, the project also includes work on bulkheads, operational buildings, cofferdams, approach walls, and demolition. This project carries one of the biggest price tags for the USACE at $2.918 billion, an estimate based on a 2011 price (not accounting for inflation).


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