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Erosion monitoring along selected bank locations of the Coosa River in Alabama using terrestrial light detection and ranging (T–lidar) technology, 2014–17

April 26, 2019

The Alabama Power Company operates a series of dams on the Coosa River in east central Alabama. Seven dams impound the river to form six reservoirs: Weiss Lake, H Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, Lake Mitchell, and Lake Jordan. Streamflow below these reservoirs is primarily controlled by power generation at the dams, and there is ongoing concern about the stability of selected stream banks downstream from the dams. During relicensing in the early 2000s, the Alabama Power Company and stakeholders identified particular areas of concern to monitor and document the extent of erosion. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Alabama Power Company, conducted a 3-year monitoring program, from 2014 to 2017, of the geomorphic conditions of six selected reaches along the Coosa River. The six reaches included two downstream from H Neely Henry Dam near Gadsden, two downstream from Logan Martin Dam near Vincent, and two downstream from Walter Bouldin Dam near Wetumpka, Alabama. The geomorphic monitoring was conducted using boat- and tripod-mounted terrestrial light detection and ranging technology. Site LM–108, an island in the Coosa River downstream from Logan Martin Dam, exhibited the greatest amount of normalized erosion, 2.05 cubic meters per square meter of area, likely because this site experiences head-on flow from the river. Bank retreat at the upstream end of the island (LM–108) was estimated at 2.9 meters for the study period. The remaining five reaches were exposed to shear flow from the river; the greatest amount of normalized erosion, 0.467 cubic meter per square meter of area, was exhibited by site WB–106 on the right bank downstream from Walter Bouldin Dam. Results of the comparisons of terrestrial light detection and ranging scans indicated that intervals between scans that exhibited the greatest amounts of erosion generally corresponded to periods of above-median flow, and that intervals between scans that exhibited the least amounts of erosion, or deposition, generally corresponded to periods of below-median flow. Relatively smaller surface areas could be surveyed at some sites because inundation or dense vegetation obscured parts of the banks, suggesting that, in future investigations, it may be preferable to conduct scans during periods of leaf-off and low flow to avoid bias introduced by parts of the banks of interest being inundated or obscured by vegetation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Erosion monitoring along selected bank locations of the Coosa River in Alabama using terrestrial light detection and ranging (T–lidar) technology, 2014–17
DOI 10.3133/sir20195023
Authors Richard J. Huizinga, Daniel M. Wagner
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2019-5023
Index ID sir20195023
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Midwest Water Science Center