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Article (Frontiers in Water): Assessment of Riverine Dredging Impact on Flooding in Low-Gradient Coastal Rivers Using a Hybrid 1D/2D Hydrodynamic Model

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Assessment of Riverine Dredging Impact on Flooding in Low-Gradient Coastal Rivers Using a Hybrid 1D/2D Hydrodynamic Model by Haitham A. Saad and Emad H. Habib, Department of Civil Engineering, Louisiana Watershed Flood Center, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, LA, United States

The current study investigates the effect of large-scale channel modifications via riverine dredging on flood dynamics in low-gradient river systems located in inland-coastal flood transition zones. The study site is the Vermilion River in south Louisiana, US, which is characterized by complex flow regimes, reversal and bi-directional flows, presence of large swamps with significant river-swamp interactions, and large volumes of runoff contributions from lateral tributaries.

The study aims to understand the interplay of these factors and how they modulate and get affected by different dredging approaches that vary in spatial extent and the modifications introduced to the channel. The study deploys a hybrid, one-/two-dimensional (1D/2D), hydrodynamic model that simulates flow and stage dynamics in the main river and its major tributaries, as well as the flow exchanges with the interconnected swamp system. Overall, the results show that the dredging activities can significantly alter the flow regime in the watershed and affect flow exchanges between the river and the swamp system. In terms of flooding impact, only dredging approaches that are extensive in spatial extent and modifications to channel longitudinal slope can result in sizeable reductions in flood stages.

However, these benefits come at the expense of significant increases in the amplitude and inland propagation of the Gulf tidal wave. On the other hand, less-extensive dredging can still provide moderate and spatially limited flood mitigation; however, they further expose downstream communities to increased levels of flooding, especially during more frequent events. The results reveal that while dredging can increase the hydraulic conveyance of the river system, the large runoff volumes delivered by the urbanized tributaries seem to outweigh the added improvement in the in-channel storage, thus reducing the anticipated flood relief. The results suggest that a watershed-centered approach, instead of a riverine-centered approach is needed for flood management in these systems so that the relative benefits and tradeoffs of different mitigation alternatives can be examined.

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