This investigation was motivated by the amount of river, estuarine, and coastal infrastructure that is susceptible to extreme wave and flooding events. The high velocities and resulting shear stresses associated with high flow velocities are capable of scouring or depositing large quantities of sediment around hydraulic structures. Preventing the failure of these structures and sedimentation in inlets alone costs federal and state agencies billions of dollars annually. In addition to being costly, the manual monitoring of bridge scour - as mandated by the Federal Highway Administration - can be inefficient in states such as Ohio where the flood events that initiate the scour process occur sporadically. According to the National Scour Evaluation Database, there are 23326 bridges over waterways in the state of Ohio, of which 5273 are considered scour susceptible and 191 are considered 'scour critical'. Previous methods for identifying bridge scour have relied on the manual (diver-based) sampling of local water depths that are generally limited to periods of low water flow. As the dynamic scour and deposition of sediments around structures is highest during periods of high flow, traditional sampling methods have limited our ability to predict quantitatively scour or deposition levels and to evaluate sediment transport models. This research is aimed at developing and testing new methods to observe riverbed topographic evolution around piles and under bridges where the structures themselves interfere with GPS based positioning. Simultaneous measurements of the velocity profiles can be used in conjunction with the observed bathymetry to make inferences about bridge scour and the effect of bridge piles on local riverbed topography. Related to problems generated by sediment scour are issues of sediment deposition in navigational channels. On the Maumee River, OH, alone, the Army Corp of Engineers spends millions of dollars annually to dredge an average of 850,000 cubic yards of sediment. With the elimination of open lake disposal of dredged sediments, an inter-agency collaboration of government and private citizens has been formed to identify possible methods for reducing the amount of deposition by reducing the soil erosion along river bank’s. Clearly, development of new observational capabilities and a subsequent increase in observations of riverbed topography and flow around structures will improve our ability to utilize available resources in the most efficient manner.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

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U.S. Geological Survey

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