Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP)

Published March 5, 2020
Updated: March 5, 2020

Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP)

In 1986, the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) was declared by Congress as “a nationally significant ecosystem and a nationally significant commercial navigation system.” In November 2007, Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2007) Title VIII authorization for modernizing the navigation system and restoring the environment, which is the first of its kind — a dual-purpose, integrated program to enhance and improve UMRS. This authority, known as Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), seeks to provide a safe, reliable, cost effective and environment sustainable waterborne navigation system by implementing switchboats at five locks, constructing mooring cells and seven new 1,200 foot locks. NESP will restore the aquatic and terrestrial habitat to a more natural condition on more than 100,000 acres throughout the system through a wide variety of ecosystem projects.

The collaborative development, design and implementation of NESP has created unprecedented support from diverse groups of citizens and stakeholders concerned with the long-term sustainability of this river system.

In a coordinated effort amongst U.S. Army Corps of Engineers districts: St Paul, Rock Island and St Louis, the fiscal year 2020 work plan funds of $4.5M will support:  

  • The districts to start working toward creating a smarter, safer and more efficient transportation system, which will be able to meet the growing demand for waterborne transportation now and into the future. 
  • Small-scale navigation infrastructure and environmental restoration projects designed with the fiscal year 2020 work plan funds will provide a more reliable waterborne transportation system, which will enhance the Nation’s global export competitiveness, boost the Nation’s economy and provide essential habitat for a diverse group of fish and wildlife.
  • This funding will assist the Corps with starting to design a small portion of the authorized program; however, more must be done to modernize and accelerate the construction of critical waterborne transportation infrastructure. If no additional funds are secured, the waterborne transportation infrastructure will continue to inadequately meet the Nation’s needs and increase risks to communities and impact the Nation’s economic competitiveness.
  • Complete the design for 1‒2 small scale ecosystem projects to ensure new start construction readiness.
  • Reassess the small-scale "shovel ready" and large-scale ecosystem projects.
  • Complete the design for 1‒2 small-scale navigation projects to ensure new start construction readiness.
  • Advance the design of a large-scale navigation project.

For related information: