Celebrating 150 years of service to the Nation

St. Louis District's 150th Anniversary

Two centuries ago, the Mississippi River strategically sat at the eastern edge of a primarily unexplored frontier. The river’s main purpose was to serve as the highway and lifeline of competing empires. The “Mighty Mississippi” is an indispensable and balanced multi-faceted resource that supports a tremendous sphere of uses, ranging from navigation to recreation. With its network of locks and dams, channel improvement structures, abundance of wetlands, and diversity of wildlife habitat, the majestic river is a nationally significant ecosystem and commercial navigation system.

The St. Louis District was officially established in 1872. However, our roots date back to 1837, when Lieutenant Robert Lee, a recent graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, was assigned to St. Louis by Congress to study navigation-related harbor problems. The mission of the St. Louis District expanded during the early twentieth century when Congress recognized the integral relationship between navigation and flood control on the nation’s inland waterways. That realization ultimately led to the passage of the Flood Control Act of 1936. That act officially added flood control to the mission statement of the Corps of Engineers. Today, the St. Louis District accomplishes an array of navigation, flood control, and environmental restoration projects.

St. Louis District Engineers Since 1870

 Former St. Louis District Engineers

COL James H. Simpson

1873 – 1880

MAJ Oswald H. Ernst

1880 – 1886

MAJ Alexander M. Miller

1886 – 1893

MAJ Charles J. Allen

1893 – 1896

LT Chester Harding

1896 – 1896

MAJ Thomas H. Handbury

1896 – 1899

MAJ Edward Burr

1899 – 1901

MAJ Thomas L. Casey, Jr.

1901 – 1906

COL Clinton B. Sears

1906 – 1908

CPT Gustave R. Lukesh

1908 – 1908

BG William H. Bixby

1908 – 1909, 1910 – 1910, 1917 – 1917

LTC Clarence H. Knight

1909 – 1910, 1910 – 1910

LTC Charles L. Potter

1910 – 1912

COL Curtis McDonald Towsend


MAJ Wildurr Willing

1915 – 1917, 1919 – 1920

LTC Clark S. Smith

1917 – 1917

William S. Mitchell

1917 – 1919

MAJ Dewitt C. Jones

1920 – 1922

MAJ Lunsford E. Oliver

1922 – 1924

MAJ John C. Gotwals

1924 – 1930

CPT Sylvester E. Nortner

1930 – 1930

MAJ William A. Snow

1930 – 1933

MAJ Bartley M. Harloe

1933 – 1935

LTC Paul S. Reinecke

1935 – 1940

COL Roy W. Grower

1940 – 1942

COL Lawrence B. Feagin

1942 – 1946

COL Rudolph E. Smyser, Jr.

1946 – 1949

COL Beverly C. Snow

1949 – 1951

COL Fred E. Ressegieu

1951 – 1954

COL George E. White Jr.

1954 – 1957

COL Charles B. Schweizer

1957 – 1960

COL Alfred J. D’Arezzo

1960 – 1963

COL James B. Meanor Jr.

1963 – 1966

COL Edwin R. Decker

1966 – 1970

COL Carroll N. LeTellier

1970 – 1971

COL Guy E. Jester

1971 – 1973

COL Thorwald R. Peterson

1973 – 1976

COL Leon E. McKinney

1976 – 1979

COL Robert J. Dacey

1979 – 1982

COL Gary D. Beech

1982 – 1985

COL Daniel M. Wilson

1985 – 1988

COL James E. Corbin

1988 – 1991

COL James D. Craig

1991 – 1994

COL Thomas C. Suermann

­­1994 – 1996

COL Thomas J. Hodgini

1996 – 1999

COL Michael R. Morrow

1999 – 2002

COL C. Kevin Williams

2002 – 2005

COL Lewis F. Setliff, III

2005 – 2008

COL Thomas E. O’Hara, Jr.

2008 – 2011

COL Christopher G. Hall

2011 – 2014

COL Anthony P. Mitchell

2014 – 2017

COL Bryan K. Sizemore

2017 – 2020

District Timeline

 Modified St. Louis District Timeline


Lieutenant Robert Lee arrived in St. Louis to restore and protect the harbor.


St. Louis gage was established on the Mississippi River.


St. Louis District established.


Col. James H. Simpson became the first official District Engineer from 1 January 1873 through 30  March 1880.


Construction began on Lock & Dam No. 26.


Construction began on Lock & Dam No. 25.


Construction began on Lock & Dam No. 24.


Construction of Lock & Dam No. 26 completed.


Construction of Mark Twain Lakes began.


Memphis District began construction of Wappapello Lake.


Lock & Dam No. 25 completed.


Lock & Dam No. 24 completed.


Memphis District completed Wappapello Lake.


Construction began on the Chain of Rocks Canal.


Construction began on Locks 27.


Chain of Rocks Canal completed.


Locks 27 completed.


Construction began on the Cape Girardeau Flood Protection Project.


Construction of Carlyle Lake began.


Construction of Dam 27 began.


Construction of the St. Louis Flood Protection Project began.


The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1962 authorized the Kaskaskia Lock & Dam.


Construction of Lake Shelbyville began.


Dam 27 completed.


Cape Girardeau Flood Protection Project completed.


Construction began on Rend Lake.


Carlyle Lake completed.


Lake Shelbyville completed.


Rend Lake completed.


Established the first Environmental River Engineering Program in the nation to implement the Environmental River Engineering Project on the Middle Mississippi River.


Construction of Clarence Cannon Dam and Reservoir began.


The River Engineering Unit completed the first ever notched-dike structure as part of the Environmental River Engineering Project.


The St. Louis Flood Protection Project completed.


Kaskaskia Lock & Dam completed.


Construction begins on Lock and Dam 26 Replacement.


Wappapello Lake is transferred from the Memphis District to the St. Louis District.


Clarence Cannon Dam and Mark Twain Lake completed. Both hydropower units at the facility were placed into operation.


Because of its ecological significance, Congress designated the Mississippi River a “national environmental treasure.”


The Riverlands Area Office established.


District begins construction of first ever Bendway Weir field.


Lock & Dam No. 26 was decommissioned and demolished. Full operation of the main lock at Melvin Price commences.


The Flood of 1993: On August 1 the Mississippi River set a high water mark on the St. Louis gage at 49.58 feet and reached an all-time high in terms of flow at 1,070,000 cfs. The river remained above flood stage for a new-record 80 consecutive days and for a new-record 148 days during the calendar year.


The St. Louis District established the Applied River Engineering Center. AREC, in turn, introduced a new technology called Micro Modeling to solve a variety of sedimentation related issues, including navigation, environmental restoration of rivers, bridge scour, and river engineering design.


Melvin Price Auxiliary Lock completed.


Kaskaskia Navigation Project was combined with the Carlyle Lake Project.


National Great River Museum Opens.


Veterans Curations Program established in the St. Louis District.


Audubon Center at Riverlands Opens.

Notable Engineers in the St. Louis District

 Alfons J. Tiefenbrun

Tiefenbrun began his career with the Corps in 1931 and continued service until his retirement in 1972. His initial assignment was hydraulic computations and studies. He was promoted to assistant chief of Hydraulics, a position he held until he was deployed for service in World War II. After reaching the rank of Colonel at the end of his service in 1946, he returned to the district in the Reports Branch of the Engineering Division. His efforts in the district resulted in the authorization of much of the work on the Illinois, Salt, Kaskaskia, Big Muddy, and Meramec rivers. His also played a prominent role in the initial authorization of the replacement for Locks and Dam No. 26.

 Charles D. Lamb

He began his career in the district in 1882, serving in the capacity of assistant engineer until his death in 1923. He served as superintendent of the engineer boatyard during most of his career. During the early part of his career, he was in charge of construction of the longitudinal dike opposite Alton, Illinois, one of the first river-regulating works built in the district. In 1888 he made a preliminary examination and survey of the Kaskaskia River.

 Claude Norman Strauser

Strauser began his career in 1969 as a Junior Engineer Trainee for the district. He quickly realized his desire to work as a river engineer on the Mississippi, so he chose the River Stabilization Branch, of which he eventually became chief, as his permanent assignment. The River Stabilization Branch became part of the Hydrologic and Hydraulic Branch and Strauser became chief of the branch in 1999 and continued as such until his retirement in 2005. Strauser is considered the father of a new type of river engineering known as Environmental River Engineering. He was one of the Corps leaders in terms of balancing the traditional function of maintaining navigation with the environmental mission of the Corps that arose after the passage of NEPA. Strauser played an essential role in working to create a waterway that serves as a highway for water commerce while at the same time remaining environmentally healthy.

 Edward C. Constance

Constance was a member of the district from 1904 to 1943, with the exception of a six-year period in which he worked in the Kansas City District. He served in various capacities for the district, including river construction and supervisor of a large construction party. He designed numerous river construction jobs, new floating plants, and modifications to older plants. He also designed equipment for the district, including repair and upkeep of all district plants. He prepared specifications and contracts for floating plant as well as river construction. He was also in charge of the engineer depot shops and general supply and repair organization of the district.

 Emmett Hahn

Hahn’s 35-year career with the district began in 1964 and continued until his retirement in 1999. During this time he worked in the Planning and Engineering divisions and eventually became Chief of the district’s Readiness Branch. The 1993 flood focused national attention on Hahn and he became one of the most quoted people in America during the event. At the time of his retirement, he was recognized as an expert in flood damage reduction and emergency operations.

 Gaston G. Crane

He was a member of the St. Louis District from 1883 to 1930, serving in various capacities during that time, such as overseer and supervisor of construction and master of the dredge. He possessed and intimate knowledge of all branches of field work in the district and ensured that this work was completed in an economical manner. The towboat Crane is named in honor of his service to the district.

 Henry Flad

Flad came to the United States from Germany during the German Republican Revolution of 1848. He eventually settled near St. Louis and found employment as a railroad engineer. During the American civil war, he enlisted in the Union army as a private and eventually rose to the rank of colonel. After the war, Flad earned international respect as a civil engineer when, as an assistant engineer to the world-renown James B. Eads, he helped to construct the famous, steel-arched Eads Bridge across the Mississippi River. Flad was the designing force behind many of the boldest and awe-inspiring features of the bridge. Flad became a member of the MRC in 1890. As chairman of the MRC Committee on Dredges and Dredging, Flad authored a favorable report on dredging as a temporary expedient for relieving low water shoaling. At his recommendation, the MRC authorized the construction of an experimental dredge, the Alpha. Flad personally supervised the construction of the Alpha, which quickly proved the value of dredging and convinced the Commission to construct more dredges. Flad, in turn, pioneered the design and construction of the MRC dredging fl eet and its attending plant. Flad’s efforts ultimately lead to a fundamental shift in MRC policy, whereby dredging served as permanent compliment to contraction works for improving low water navigation.

 Homer L. Duff

Duff’s career with the district began in 1938 and continued until his retirement in 1986. He served with remarkable distinction as Comptroller, Supervisory Civil Engineer, Civil Engineer, and Hydraulics Engineer. All of his service was in the district except for his duty with the U.S. Navy Seabees between 1943 and 1945. His efforts as the LMVD representative contributed greatly to the legislative action that resulted in the creation of the Corps Revolving Fund appropriation.

 Jack R. Niemi

Mr. Niemi began his long career with the district in 1962. He served as Chief of the Engineering Division from 1973 to 1989 and as Deputy District Engineer for Project Management from 1989 until his retirement in 1993. Niemi was the recipient of numerous awards during his career, including the Presidential Award for Design Excellence, the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, a Professional Recognition Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Department of the Army Achievement Award. He also received the Engineer of the Year Award from the St. Louis Chapter of the National Association of Professional Engineers and was honored as Engineer of the Year of the Lower Mississippi Valley Division.

 James B. Eads

James B. Eads was a self-educated civil engineer whose early career was marked by the invention of the diving bell and his partnership in a steamboat salvaging firm. His engineering reputation grew to the highest level as a result of the construction of the bridge that bears his name. His reputation was enhanced further by his successful attempt to open the mouth of the Mississippi River to oceangoing vessels through a system of jetties designed to narrow and deepen the South Pass. In 1876, Eads testified before Congress that the same principle he used at the South Pass could be extended upstream to deepen the channel and improve navigation the length of the lower Mississippi River, and this proposal ultimately was a factor in the creation of the MRC in 1879, of which Eads was a member. Eads advocated a “levees-only” plan to close all outlets and line the river with a system of levees located directly on the banks of the river to increase the volume of flow and deepen the channel, as his jetty system had done at the South Pass. After the MRC Committee on Outlets and Levees did not recommend the closure the Atchafalaya River as an outlet, Eads resigned from the MRC.


 James E. Kennedy

Kennedy worked for the district from 1892 until 1938, during which time he served in various capacities on river regulating works and dredging operations, as well as overseer, Master of Dredge, construction superintendent, and senior superintendent. In 1923, he became an office superintendent, providing guidance and counsel on all river activities in the district. In his later years, he focused his efforts primarily on dredging. His knowledge of the river and its history were unequalled in the district during his long career.

 John C. Debolt

Debolt was employed in the district from 1924 until his death in 1954. He began his career with the Corps as a surveyman and in 1927 became an inspector in charge of large construction jobs, including piling dikes and bank protection. He later worked in the district office on plans and specifications and on examination and survey reports for navigation and flood control structures. He also served as Assistant Chief of Operations, Construction Division, and as head of the River Regulating Works Maintenance Section. He was the recipient of the Meritorious Civilian Award in 1944 for his service to the government.

 John Ockerson

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Ockerson became employed as an assistant engineer in the Great Lakes survey and served as a federal inspector of the Eads jetty surveys in 1876. Ockerson’s 45-year affiliation with the MRC dated back to its creation in 1879; first as an assistant engineer and, from 1898-1924, as a member. As an assistant engineer, he guided the Commission’s surveys and physical examinations of the river from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, and the surveys and maps he produced were so exceptionally complete and accurate that they were in great demand worldwide. He was a long-time member of several standing committees, including the Committee on Dredges and Dredging, the Committee on Outlets and Levees, and the Committee on the Separation of the Red and Mississippi Rivers, and was instrumental in shaping the direction of MRC policy. The MRC often anointed the tall, dignified, and eloquent Ockerson as the Commission’s point man in articulating MRC policy to Congress, his peers in the engineering community, and the people of the Mississippi Valley.

 John W. Gurley

Gurley began his career with the district in 1934 as a sub-surveyman and retired in 1972 as Chief of the Operations Division. His technical abilities contributed heavily to the Mississippi River system being the corridor of navigation it is today. He established the framework for Lake Management which became the model for the Corps.

 Lowell C. Oheim

Oheim began his career with the district in 1927, a career which continued until his retirement in 1970. He began as a Boatman and advanced to the position of Surveyman, Inspector, Engineer Aide, Engineer of the Lock and Dam Branch and, lastly, Chief of Construction and Operations Division, a position he held from 1958 until his retirement. He demonstrated superb ability in his management of the Construction-Operations Division and also in his advice and knowledge of river operations. During his tenure as Chief of Construction-Operations the district shifted from construction of levees to construction of complex flood protection projects, pump stations, and flood control reservoirs. In 1966 he received the Meritorious Service Award for his efforts and was also named St. Louis Federal Civil Service Employee of the year in 1965.

 Marshall Gray

Gray worked for the Corps from 1923 until his retirement in 1965. He served as principal draftsman in the Louisville District from 1923 to 1930. From 1930 to 1954, he worked in the Upper Mississippi Valley Division office in St. Louis, serving as engineer in charge of all drafting work in connection with preparation of plans for locks and dams on the Mississippi River. He transferred to the St. Louis District in 1954. He worked as information officer for the district, devoting long hours and tireless effort to informing the public about Corps plans and programs. In 1963, he received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his efforts to facilitate cordial relations between the Corps and the media and public.

 Mike Dace

Dace began his career with the Corps in 1969 as Design Engineer in the Design Branch, where he remained until 1976. In 1976 he became a member of Project Management and became project manager for the proposed Meramec Park Lake project. In addition to the Meramec project, which was deauthorized in 1981, Dace worked as a project manager on numerous other projects during his tenure, including an eight-month stint as Chief of the Project Management Division in 2006. Dace began working on a flood control study for the district at Times Beach, Mo. in 1982. During the study, the district gained experience with hazardous, toxic, and radioactive waste and with aerial photography. The district used this experience to obtain future work preparing preliminary assessments for the DERP-FUDS program. Dace played the essential role in obtaining this DERP-FUDS work for the district, the result of which was the establishment of the Ordnance and Technical Services Branch, of which Dace would serve as Chief until his retirement in 2006.

 Otto K. Steffens

Steffens worked for the Corps for 36 years, half of which was spent in service to the St. Louis District (1967-1984), during which time he was Resident Engineer for the St. Louis Flood Protection Resident Office. In 1970, he became the Resident Engineer for the construction of Clarence Cannon Dam and Reservoir and served in that capacity until his retirement.

 Thomas J. Mudd

Mudd began working for the district as a Structural Engineer in 1961. In 1968 he was promoted to the position of Supervisory Civil Engineer and assigned the role of leading the design effort for the Melvin Price Locks and Dam Project. Mudd left the district in 1987 to work at the Ohio River Division and later at the Waterways Experiment Station until his retirement in 1995. He will always be remembered in the district as “Mr. Mel Price” as the innovations he pioneered in the design and construction of the structure are a testament to his excellence as a structural engineer.

 Walter F. Lawlor

Lawlor began his civilian career with the Corps in November 1931 and continued his service to the district until his retirement in 1969. His initial assignment was inspector on Illinois River levee construction. He eventually had complete responsibility for the design and supervision of construction on all levees in the district. In 1946 he was named Chief of the Engineering Division, a position he held until his retirement. Lawlor was a decisive leader with keen judgment and an ability for directing a broad field of engineering, while also possessing exceptional knowledge of details pertaining to specific projects. In 1968 he was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his outstanding executive leadership in engineering.

 William M. Penniman

Penniman was employed in the district from 1891 until his death in 1934. During this time he served in many different capacities, including timekeeper, transitman, Master of Dredge, junior engineer, assistant engineer, engineer, senior engineer, and principal engineer. He was principal civilian assistant to the St. Louis District from January 6, 1923 until his death.

 William S. Mitchell

Mitchell was employed continuously with the Corps from 1878 to 1931, retiring at the age of 74. In 1904 he became the principal civilian engineer. During World War I he was appointed district engineer, the first civilian to hold the position. He also directed the survey and report on a system of drainage with levees from the American Bottoms, which was the later basis for the East Side Levee District. He designed a fleet of four towboats and 19 large, steel barges. He also designed numerous hydraulic dredges which were essential for maintaining the navigability of the river.

St. Louis District Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees