Civil Works

The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division's Civil Works missions provide navigation, flood risk management, environmental, emergency response, recreation, hydropower, water supply and regulatory permits. The Division’s area of responsibility encompasses 355,300 square miles, all or portions of 17 states containing a population of more than 58 million people.



Navigation was the Army Corps of Engineers’ earliest Civil Works mission, and the Great Lakes & Ohio River Division maintains a robust navigation mission to this day. The Corps provides safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable waterborne transportation systems (channels, harbors, and waterways) for movement of commerce, national security needs, and recreation.

Annually, the Great Lakes facilitate transport of 175 million tons of vital commodities to and from the Nation’s heartland. The Ohio River and its tributaries carry 35% percent of the country’s waterborne commerce.

The Division also hosts the Corps' Inland Navigation Planning Center of Expertise.


As the nation’s environmental engineer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages one of the largest federal environmental missions: restoring degraded ecosystems; constructing sustainable facilities; regulating waterways; managing natural resources; cleaning up contaminated sites from past military activities; and researching and developing technologies to protect the nation’s environment and enhance quality of life.

The Great Lakes & Ohio River Division works to restore degraded ecosystem structure, function and dynamic processes to a more natural condition through large-scale ecosystem restoration projects across both watersheds.

Water management

The Great Lakes & Ohio River Division is the steward of more than 90% of the Nation’s surface fresh water. The Division makes real-time water resource decisions that directly affect people, the environment, and the Nation’s economy. Each of our multipurpose reservoirs provides water for many purposes, including fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, transportation, hydropower generation, and water supply.

Flood risk management

Flood Risk Management (FRM) is one of USACE Civil Work’s three core missions, alongside support for commercial navigation and restoration of aquatic ecosystems. USACE’s FRM activities seek to reduce the threat to life and property from riverine and coastal storm flooding through the development and communication of advanced knowledge, technology and solutions.

USACE FRM activities are rooted in partnering with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, as well as the private sector and other stakeholders. FRM is a shared responsibility, and USACE works with partners to design, construct, operate, and maintain projects that manage flood risk across the nation. 

Although efforts of federal agencies, state and local governments, and tribal nations have reduced flood risk, flooding still accounts for 90% of all-natural disaster damage. To reduce flood risk, the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division operates and maintains 84 dams and reservoirs to protect communities in the region. When a storm hits, multi-purpose flood-control reservoirs built and maintained by the Corps of Engineers retain excess water upstream of the dam. Controlled releases of this excess water helps prevent or reduce downstream flooding. The majority of our dams are within the flood-prone Ohio River basin. The Division also has 539 miles of levees and over 100 local flood protection projects, which include walls, levees and channel improvements. These projects have saved lives, homes, businesses and prevented over $39 billion in damages since 2012.

What is flood risk?

Flood risk is a combination of the likelihood of a natural or man-made flood hazard happening and the consequences or impact if it occurred. Flood risk is dependent on a source of flooding (such as a river), a route for the flood water to take, and damages caused by the flood (such as damage to homes and businesses).  Managing flood risk starts with understanding the chance that certain hazards could occur and then identifying the corresponding magnitude of the potential outcome. If any flood risk management structures exist, such as a dam or levee, the performance of those structures also needs to be considered when determining flood risk. Although FRM structures provide some level of protection, they do not eliminate flood risks. Flooding can still occur in surrounding communities and watersheds “even with flood risk management measures (structural and non-structural) in place.”


The Division has the responsibility for regulating and permitting work in the “Waters of the United States”, including wetlands, within the Great Lakes region and the Ohio River basin. The goals of the regulatory program are to protect the aquatic environment, efficiently manage the permitting process, and ensure fair and reasonable decisions for the public. In pursuit of those goals, the Division issues more than 10,000 permits annually.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydropower Program is the largest generator of hydropower in the United States. The Great Lakes and Ohio River Division maintains ten hydroelectric power plants with a generation capacity of 935 megawatts. Additionally, the Division’s water resource projects support fifteen privately developed plants.


The Corps of Engineers is the nation’s largest provider of water-based recreation, and the Great Lakes & Ohio River Division provides more than a third of the Corps of Engineer’s total outdoor recreational opportunities. The Division manages 1.5 million acres of land and water, including 756 recreational sites that provide boating, swimming, hiking, camping, wildlife observation, hunting, and fishing. These areas receive more than 80 million visitors annually and generate 27,000 jobs in local communities. The Division operates three visitor centers in the Great Lakes region that provide recreational and educational opportunities to the public, free of charge. All centers are handicap accessible. Hours may vary by the season.