River Facts



   Commercial Navigation              Water Quality

Ecosystem Restoration 

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M-35 Marine Highway Route:

Governance Architecture

Brochure PDF

M-55/M-35 Container On-Barge Project Designation PDF

America's Marine Highway Program


Commercial Navigation

Commercial navigation on the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) is an integral part of the national transportation system, and it is crucial to local, regional, and national economies.  Relative to other transportation modes, the inland waterways system provides the most cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly means to transport cargo, including a large portion of our nation’s agricultural exports.  In addition to the vessel operators and shippers, many others benefit from the locks and dams, river training structures, and channel


maintenance that make navigation

Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


possible on the UMRS.  Some of these other beneficiaries include drinking water and power plant operators, industrial water users, and recreational boaters.  Recognizing these and many other benefits, Congress has declared the UMRS to be a “nationally significant commercial navigation system.

The UMRS states have a vested interest in ensuring that the river continues to function as a commercial transportation corridor, connecting the states to the world economy.  The states outline their shared priorities for infrastructure investment on the UMRS for addressing a wide-range of issues affecting the nation's inland waterways in the 2013 UMRBA UMRS Commercial Navigation Position Paper.


Operation and Maintenance – Routine operation and maintenance (O&M) needs on the UMRS are substantial (at least $150 to $200 million annually).  Most of UMRS’s locks and dams are over 70 years old and in serious need of repair and major rehabilitation.  UMRBA advocates for adequate O&M investments and rehabilitation funding to maintain the river’s capacity to move commerce.  Moreover, UMRBA’s member states participate actively on USACE District-based teams, providing input regarding O&M priorities and ideas for enhancing efficiency while managing environmental impacts.

Lock Capacity and Modernization (NESP) – The 600-foot locks found at most UMRS dams create frequent waits as larger tow configurations are pulled apart into two segments for locking.  These capacity limitations also hamper the system’s ability to support future traffic growth, posing significant regional and national economic costs.  Congress authorized the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) in 2007 to address critical capacity constraints on the system.  NESP calls for 7 new 1,200-foot locks at the most congested locations (Locks and Dams 20, 21, 22, 24, and 25 on the UMR and at La Grange and Peoria on the Illinois Waterway) and many small scale navigation improvements, such as mooring cells and helper boats, to increase capacity elsewhere on the system.  NESP is an unprecedented duel purpose program, also incorporating ecosystem restoration.  The UMRS states have jointly expressed their commitment to NESP’s multi-purpose, integrated management approach.  NESP has yet to receive construction funding and preconstruction engineering and design (PED) funding was curtailed in FY 11.  Current challenges to advancing NESP include constrained domestic discretionary spending, Inland Waterways Trust Fund shortfalls, cost overruns elsewhere in the Corps’ navigation program, and a lack of Office of Management and Budget support for NESP that has spanned both the Bush and Obama Administrations. 

Inland Waterway Trust Fund (IWTF) – The nonfederal share of inland navigation construction and major rehabilitation costs comes from the IWTF.  However, the Fund’s revenue stream is insufficient to meet the nation’s inland waterways investment needs.  Congress, the Administration, and the navigation industry are working to find solutions to restoring the IWTF’s balance, including enhancing IWTF revenues while also addressing prioritization of capital needs, cost overruns, and other issues.

Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) – In the past few years, ANS issues have taken center stage, particularly due to the potential spread of Asian carp from portions of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to the Great Lakes Basin and to as-yet uninfested waters within the UMRB.  Options including lock closures and fish barriers currently being explored to prevent and control Asian carps’ spread on the UMR and their introduction into the Great Lakes may have significant impacts to a broad range of river uses, including commercial navigation and recreational boating.  UMRBA has thus called for the development of effective, affordable, and safe controls for ANS that do not pose significant implications for water resources multi-purpose management.

Missouri River Management – Management of the Missouri River has direct implications for the Middle Mississippi and also has important connections to the entire UMR.  Interconnections between the two systems include river levels that support commercial navigation, flood risk management, migratory species, and power generation.  UMRBA has closely followed efforts to reexamine the Missouri River’s authorized purposes, including the Missouri River Master Revision and the Missouri River Authorized Purposes Study, and has ensured that UMRB states’ perspectives are understood and considered.





Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

Useful Documents and Links

UMRBA Navigation-Related Statements (See publications under Commercial Navigation as well as USACE Navigation and Ecosystem Programs)


UMRS Ports, Terminals, Operators Workshop Summary (February 24-25, 2015) PDF


Joint Governors' Letter to the President on NESP (August 20, 2014) PDF


UMRBA July 9-10, 2014 Navigation Summit Summary PDF


2013 UMRBA UMRS Commercial Navigation Position Paper PDF


USACE's NESP home page

  - NESP authorizing legislation PDF

  - Navigation Feasibility Study (September 2004) PDF

U.S. Port and Inland Waterways Modernization Strategy

Inland Marine Transportation System (IMTS) Capital Investment Strategy Team's Capital Projects Business Model (April 13, 2010) PDF

Great Lakes (GLMRIS) home page

Missouri River Master Manual

UMRS Channel Maintenance Issue Assessment (February 1, 2016) PDF