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Long-term geomorphic response to flow regulation in a 10-km reach downstream of the Mississippi–Atchafalaya River diversion

Wang, Bo, Xu, Y. Jun
Journal of hydrology 2016 v.8 pp. 10-25
engineering, floods, long term effects, remote sensing, rivers, sediment deposition, sediment traps, spring, surface area, Mississippi River
A recent study reported considerable sediment trapping by three large channel bars downstream 18–28km of the Mississippi–Atchafalaya River diversion (commonly known as the Old River Control Structure, ORCS) during the 2011 Mississippi River flood. In this study, we analyzed 3-decadal morphological changes of the 10-km river channel and the three bars to elucidate the long-term effects of river engineering including diversion, revetment and dike constructions. Satellite images captured between 1985 and 2015 in approximate 5-year intervals were selected to estimate the change of channel morphology and bar surface area. The images were chosen based on river stage heights at the time when they were captured to exclude the temporal water height effect on channel and bar morphology. Using a set of the satellite images captured during the period of 1984–1986 and of 2013–2014, we developed rating curves of emerged bar surface area with the corresponding river stage height for determining the change in bar volume from 1985 to 2013. Two of the three bars have grown substantially in the past 30 years, while one bar has become braided and its surface area has shrunken. As a whole, there were a net gain of 4,107,000m2 in surface area and a net gain of 30,271,000m3 in volume, an equivalent of approximately 36 million metric tons of sediment assuming a bulk density of 1.2t/m3. Sediment trapping on the bars was prevalent during the spring floods, especially during the period of 1990–1995 and of 2007–2011 when large floods occurred. The results suggest that although revetments and dikes have largely changed the morphology of the channel and the bars, they seem to have a limited impact on the overwhelming trend of sediment deposition caused by the river diversion.