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Coastal processes of the Elwha River delta: Chapter 5 in Coastal habitats of the Elwha River, Washington--biological and physical patterns and processes prior to dam removal

January 1, 2012

To understand the effects of increased sediment supply from dam removal on marine habitats around the Elwha River delta, a basic understanding of the region’s coastal processes is necessary. This chapter provides a summary of the physical setting of the coast near the Elwha River delta, for the purpose of synthesizing the processes that move and disperse sediment discharged by the river. One fundamental property of this coastal setting is the difference between currents in the surfzone with those in the coastal waters offshore of the surfzone. Surfzone currents are largely dictated by the direction and size of waves, and the waves that attack the Elwha River delta predominantly come from Pacific Ocean swell from the west. This establishes surfzone currents and littoral sediment transport that are eastward along much of the delta. Offshore of the surfzone the currents are largely influenced by tidal circulation and the physical constraint to flow provided by the delta’s headland. During both ebbing and flooding tides, the flow separates from the coast at the tip of the delta’s headland, and this produces eddies on the downstream side of the headland. Immediately offshore of the Elwha River mouth, this creates a situation in which the coastal currents are directed toward the east much more frequently than toward the west. This suggests that Elwha River sediment will be more likely to move toward the east in the coastal system.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Coastal processes of the Elwha River delta: Chapter 5 in <i>Coastal habitats of the Elwha River, Washington--biological and physical patterns and processes prior to dam removal</i>
DOI 10.3133/sir201151205
Authors Jonathan A. Warrick, Andrew W. Stevens, Ian M. Miller, Guy Gelfenbaum
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2011-5120-5
Index ID sir201151205
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center

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