Established in 1934 as part of the Missouri River Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District started out with a straightforward civil works mission, which involved only navigation on the main stem of the Missouri, and no military responsibilities.
On Jan. 2, 1934, Capt. James Young became the first commander of the new district. His staff consisted of 63 personnel who worked on the 14th floor of the Omaha City National Bank building.
In the beginning, recurrent, devastating Missouri River flooding and the drought of 1930 led to dam construction on the river. It was the immediate mission of Omaha District to build Fort Peck Dam in Montana.
The construction progressed successfully and the dam immediately helped control the upper Missouri. However, in 1943, three exceptionally large floods struck downriver and the nation realized additional efforts were necessary to bring the Missouri River under control.
In response, USACE developed a proposal to control the upper and lower basins of the Missouri River. Col. Lewis Pick, the Missouri River engineer for USACE, and W. Glenn Sloan, a Bureau of Reclamation engineer, collaborated on a plan to control the downstream flood problem.
The Pick-Sloan Plan, authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944, provided for building a set of vast engineering projects to control flooding, facilitate navigation and commerce, generate electricity, and spur agriculture and other forms of economic development in the Missouri River basin.
In addition to Fort Peck Dam, USACE built five massive Missouri River main stem dam projects—Gavins Point Dam, Garrison Dam, Fort Randall Dam, Oahe Dam, and Big Bend Dam.
Today, the six main stem dams generate enough pollution-free electricity each year to meet the needs of nearly a million homes. They also ensure plentiful, high-quality water for farms and ranches, towns and cities along more than a thousand miles of river. The dams provide recreation opportunities that no one could have imagined 75 years ago.