Mission Areas

The Chicago district is involved in a variety of projects stemming from its primary mission areas of Flood Risk Management, Shoreline Protection, Navigation, Environmental Programs, Emergency Management and Support for Others. To see a list of all of our projects, visit the Civil Works Projects page.

Flood Risk Management
Federal interest in flood risk management began in the alluvial valley of the Mississippi River in the mid-19th century. As the relationship of flood risk management and navigation became apparent, Congress called on the Corps of Engineers to use its navigational expertise to devise solutions to flooding problems along the river. After a series of disastrous floods affecting wide areas in the 1920s and 30s, Congress determined, in the Flood Control Act of 1936, that the federal government would participate in the solution of flooding problems affecting the public interest that were too large or complex to be handled by states or localities. Corps authority for flood risk management work was thus extended to embrace the entire country. The Corps turns most of the flood risk management projects it builds over to non-federal authorities for operation and maintenance once construction is completed. To read about flood management projects in the Chicago District, click here.

Environmental Programs
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; and, cleaning up contaminated sites from past military activities. USACE works in partnership with other federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions to find innovative solutions to challenges that affect everyone – sustainability, climate change, endangered species, environmental cleanup, ecosystem restoration and more. To read more about environmental projects in the Chicago District click here.

The Corps of Engineers regulates construction and other work in navigable waterways under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and has authority over the discharge of dredged or fill material into the "waters of the United States"--a term which includes wetlands and other aquatic areas--under Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (PL 92-500, the "Clean Water Act"). Under these laws, those who seek to carry out such work must first receive a permit from the Corps. The "Section 404" program is the principal way by which the federal government protects wetlands and other aquatic environments while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.

Shoreline Protection Projects
Corps work in shore protection began in 1930, when Congress directed the Corps to study ways to reduce erosion along U.S. seacoasts and the Great Lakes. Hurricane protection work was added to the erosion control mission in 1955, when Congress directed the Corps to conduct investigations along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts to identify problem areas and determine the feasibility of protection. Federal participation in a shore protection project varies, depending on shore ownership, use and type and frequency of benefits.

The Corps' ongoing responsibility for federal river and harbor improvements dates from 1824, when Congress passed two acts authorizing the Corps to survey roads and canals and to remove obstacles on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Without its great rivers, the vast, thickly-forested, region west of the Appalachians would have remained impenetrable to all but the most resourceful early pioneers. Consequently, western politicians such as Henry Clay agitated for federal assistance to improve rivers. At the same time, the War of 1812 showed the importance of a reliable inland navigation system to national defense. For navigation information click here.

Emergency Management
The Corps provides emergency response to natural disasters under Public Law 84-99, which covers flood control and coastal emergencies. It also provides emergency support to other agencies, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under Public Law 93-288 (the Stafford Act) as amended. Under P.L. 84-99, the Corps of Engineers carries out disaster preparedness work; advance measures; emergency operations such as flood fighting, rescue and emergency relief activities; rehabilitation of flood control works threatened or destroyed by flood; and protection or repair of federally authorized shore protection works threatened or damaged by coastal storms. This act also authorizes the Corps to provide emergency supplies of clean water is cases of drought or contaminated water supply. After the immediate flooding has passed, the Corps provides temporary construction and repairs to essential public utilities and facilities and emergency access for a 10-day period, at the request of the governor and prior to a Presidential Disaster Declaration.