It’s spring, and for most of us that means tackling a few home improvement projects: cleaning the gutters, say, or replacing storm windows with screens.

Remaking the Mississippi

An interactive look at a few current Army Corps river projects

The Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the Mississippi as a useful and navigable waterway. But some of the Corps’ projects have critics crying “pork.” Click the map below to find out more.

Remaking the Mississippi

Compiled by Patrick DiJusto
Illustration by Keri Rosebraugh

But what if you took that to-do list and magnified it by millions of acres, billions of dollars, and reliable bursts of outrage from the neighbors? Why, then you’d be the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This spring, we take a look at what the nation’s legendarily industrious, controversial, and misunderstood agency is up to along the Mississippi River — and what its presence there has meant for both residents and natural resources over the last 200 years.

How well is the Army Corps spending your tax dollars? Do the locks and levees the corps builds help or harm the river? Do the agency’s plans for flood- and hurricane-prone areas leave low-income residents with nowhere to go? And why was the Corps created in the first place? (Hint: It had more to do with the Statue of Liberty than with steamboats.)

Over the next few days, we’ll explore these and other questions. From a look back at the Army Corps’ creation to a look ahead at how it’s planning to confront climate change, we’ll bring you up close and personal with the busiest beaver in America’s waterways.