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Creation of the Navigation Engineering Specialty

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

By Bruce McCartney

Navigation engineering involves the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of safe, reliable, efficient, and environmentally sustainable navigable waterways (channels, structures, and support systems) used to move people and goods by waterborne vessels.

The goal of a Navigation Engineering specialty is to train and support the engineers who will be designing and operating the nation's waterways today and in the future. The target audience for these manuals include: Corps of Engineers, U.S. private sector and foreign engineers, other U.S. government agencies involved with navigation, and university students pursuing navigation related studies.

The Manuals of Practice

ASCE Manual No. 50, Report on Small Craft Harbors, 1969, was the first attempt to consolidate some of the Corps' navigation criteria for small boat harbors. Consolidation of criteria for inland barge navigation systems and deep draft ship channels was undertaken by the Corps in the 1970's. This effort resulted in publication of:

  • Layout and Design of Shallow Draft Waterways, EM 1110-2-1611, 1980
  • Hydraulic Design of Deep Draft Navigation Projects, EM 1110-2-1613, 1983

These two Engineer Manuals were conceived and developed by Bruce McCartney to capture the Corps corporate knowledge of navigation project design. Until recently, the Corps was the exclusive designer and maintainer of navigation channels in the U.S. 

The Waterways Committee

During the 1988 Waterways Committee meeting at Bonneville Lock and Dam, OR, Bruce McCartney proposed that the committee undertake a mission to save valuable Corps navigation design information.  The committee then launched an effort to create a "Navigation Engineering" Manual of Practice (MOP) series.

These manuals not only present Corps navigation design practice, design philosophy and experience, but also foreign country practice and activities of other U. S. agencies with navigation missions.

The Waterways Committee continues to work on Navigation Engineering projects, including a series of successful Navigation Engineering focused webinars and an upcoming MOP, Inland Navigation: Environmental Sustainability

The MOP's :

These manuals along with MOP No. 50, Planning and Design Guidelines for Small Craft Harbors , form the beginnings of a body of technical literature for development of a Navigation Engineering specialty in the Civil Engineering profession.

Background on Navigation Engineering

By Congressional decree, the Corps was given authority and funds to build and maintain inland waterways for navigation, ship channels for ocean going vessels, and numerous small boat harbors. In the past, navigation project design criteria were self contained knowledge within the Corps of Engineers design community.  

The design philosophy and design criteria were often verbally passed from senior engineers to junior engineers. The little criteria that existed was scattered through several Engineer Manuals and Regulations. 

However, with the current move to contract out design and privatize many government missions, there became a private sector audience that can benefit from past experience and lessons learned.

Unfortunately, in the 1980's and 1990's, there was a Government wide initiative to reduce the number of Federal regulations. The Corps manuals were vulnerable to this purge, which motivated Waterways Committee members to act.