Navigation Branch

Nashville District's Navigation Branch, comprised of the Channels Section, Maintenance Section, and the Locks Section, is responsible for maintaining 14 navigation locks and over 1100 miles of navigable river channels on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, known as the "Twin Rivers" because their paths closely mirror each other. The twin rivers represent ten percent of the U.S. Inland Waterway System. 

President Andrew Jackson gave the Army Engineers their first mission to develop the Twin River Valleys in the early 1830s.  As the needs of the nation and the mid-south have changed, the Twin Rivers have changed to meet them.  Commerce on the Twin Rivers has evolved from canoes and flatboats loaded with a season's harvest to today's daily passage of 12 barge tows hauling over 17,000 tons of goods at a time.

Lock Section

The Lock Section provides engineering and technical support for Navigation Branch's lock maintenance activities.  This is a very difficult and challenging mission, considering the average age of our locks is over 60 years old.  The team of three engineers and three engineer technicians are involved in every aspect of the maintenance mission.  Team members provide engineering review and oversight of proposed maintenance activities.  The team works with lockmasters, hydropower plant managers, and Maintenance Section supervisors to develop maintenance priorities and coordinate scheduling.

Locks Section personnel also work closely with engineers from the Tennessee Valley Authority to coordinate maintenance activities on Tennessee River locks.

Maintenance Section

The Maintenance Section is responsible for conducting major repairs and improvement activities on navigation locks, flood control structures and related facilities within the Nashville District.  The Maintenance Section is comprised of two small land-based crews (one based in Old Hickory, TN and one based in Florence, AL) and two floating plant-based crews (Plant Unit).  This arrangement allows for multiple maintenance jobs to be conducted at the same time and provide a rapid response capability that allows them to be at  any of the District's projects within hours, if necessary.  All the crews come together to work on major maintenance activities, such as lock closures and dewaterings. Maintenance Section activities include:

  • Major maintenance and repairs to Navigation Locks

  • Unwatering a lock to make repairs below the normal water level

  • Repairing major lock machinery components

  • Reconditioning and updating lock electrical systems

  • Inspect and repair underwater structures with divers

The Plant Unit of Maintenance and Repair Section conducts channel-related maintenance such as:

  • Channel maintenance dredging

  • Construction and repair of federal mooring facilities

  • Removal of snags or other hazards to navigation traffic

Channel Section

Channel Section is the recreational and commercial mariner's "Point of Contact" for channel-related events, channel condition reports and marine construction activities within the Nashville District.  This includes publishing Notices to Navigation Interests.

 The Channel Unit is responsible for the management of more than 1170 miles of navigable river channels on the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers and their tributaries. 

 The Channel Unit's team of four Engineer Technicians performs a wide range of duties such as:

Hydrographic Surveys:  Channel Section conducts hydrographic surveys of the river bottom to determine channel/lake conditions; locate areas of shoaling for channel maintenance dredging; assist with engineering of future projects for river bank or channel improvements and investigate reports of hazards to navigation traffic

Navigation Charts folios: Channel Section develops and publishes accurate hard copy charts folios of the navigation channels on the Cumberland and Tennessee River systems. 

Electronic Navigation Charts:  Electronic charts are now available and perform very much like the navigation systems in modern cars and give you real-time information as to your position on the river.  An added benefit of the electronic charts is that electronic charts are updated monthly with any information that might affect navigation traffic.  New buoys, docks, shoaling, etc, are added monthly to the charts.  All you need is a GPS display device that will display S57 format files.  Electronic Charts can be downloaded free from the Corps of Engineers Army Geospatial Center’s website.

Channel Section develops and coordinates channel maintenance activities with the Maintenance Section's floating plant.  Maintenance activities include channel dredging; construction or repair of federal mooring facilities and removing of hazards or obstructions from the channel.

 Channel Section works with the US Coast Guard, Tennessee Valley Authority, the commercial shipping industry, dock owners/operators as well as private citizens to maintain the safe passage of traffic on the Nashville District's waterways.