Modeling flow and sediment transport dynamics in the lowermost Mississippi River, Louisiana, USA, with an upstream alluvial-bedrock transition and a downstream bedrock-alluvial transition: Implications for land building using engineered diversions

Enrica Viparelli, Jeffrey A. Nittrouer, Gary Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The lowermost Mississippi River, defined herein as the river segment downstream of the Old River Control Structure and hydrodynamically influenced by the Gulf of Mexico, extends for approximately 500 km. This segment includes a bedrock (or more precisely, mixed bedrock-alluvial) reach that is bounded by an upstream alluvial-bedrock transition and a downstream bedrock-alluvial transition. Here we present a one-dimensional mathematical formulation for the long-term evolution of lowland rivers that is able to reproduce the morphodynamics of both the alluvial-bedrock and the bedrock-alluvial transitions. Model results show that the magnitude of the alluvial equilibrium bed slope relative to the bedrock surface slope and the depth of bedrock surface relative to the water surface base level strongly influence the mobile bed equilibrium of low-sloping river channels. Using data from the lowermost Mississippi River, the model is zeroed and validated at field scale by comparing the numerical results with field measurements. The model is then applied to predict the influence on the stability of channel bed elevation in response to delta restoration projects. In particular, the response of the river bed to the implementation of two examples of land-building diversions to extract water and sediment from the main channel is studied. In this regard, our model results show that engineered land-building diversions along the lowermost Mississippi River are capable of producing equilibrated bed profiles with only modest shoaling or erosion, and therefore, such diversions are a sustainable strategy for mitigating land loss within the Mississippi River Delta.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-563
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research F: Earth Surface
Volume120
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

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Mississippi River (US)
River diversion
sediment transport
Mississippi River
flow modeling
Sediment transport
bedrock
upstream
Rivers
rivers
beds
river
River control
slopes
Gulf of Mexico
Long Term Evolution (LTE)
building land
Water
morphodynamics
river bed

Keywords

  • Mississippi River
  • alluvial-bedrock transition
  • bedrock-alluvial transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

Cite this

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