Streambed Scour at Bridges in Alaska

Science Center Objects

Streambed scour is the leading cause of bridge failure in the United States resulting in over 60 percent of all failures. The Alaska Science Center, in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Alaska Railroad, is researching streambed scour through scour monitoring, hydraulic modeling, and data collection during high flows.  

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Sounding weight on the Copper River Delta, Alaska

Sounding weight on the Copper River Delta, Alaska.
(Credit: Jeffrey Conaway, USGS. Public domain.)

Streambed scour is the leading cause of bridge failure in the United States resulting in over 60 percent of all failures. Costs associated with repair and the societal repercussions associated with failures are amplified in Alaska where alternate ground transportation routes between many cities do not exist.  Damage to bridges and culverts during two floods on the Kenai Peninsula in 2002 was estimated at over 19 million dollars and prevented vehicular traffic to and the lower Kenai Peninsula for three days.

The USGS Alaska Science Center, in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF), is researching streambed scour through scour monitoring, hydrodynamic modeling, and data collection during high flows.