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Evolving fluvial response of the Sandy River, Oregon, following removal of Marmot Dam

July 1, 2010

The October 2007 removal of Marmot Dam on the Sandy River, Oregon, triggered a rapid sequence of fluvial responses as ~730,000 m3 of sand and gravel that filled the former reservoir were suddenly exposed to an energetic river. Using direct measurements of sediment transport, photogrammetry, and repeat surveys between transport events, we monitored the erosion, transport, and redeposition of this sediment in the hours, days, and months following breaching. Measurements of suspended load and bedload documented an initial spike in the flux of fine suspended sediment in the minutes after breaching followed by high rates of suspendedand bedload transport of sand. Significant gravel transport did not begin at a measurement site 0.4 km downstream of the dam until 18–20 hours after breaching, when bedload transport achieved rates of about 60 kg/s—rates that greatly exceeded concurrent measurements of less than 10 kg/s at sites upstream and farther downstream of the dam. Bedload transport rates just below the dam site remained 10–100 times above upstream and downstream rates through subsequent high flow events during the winter and spring of 2007 and 2008. Much of the elevated sediment load was derived from eroded reservoir sediment, which initially began eroding when a multi-meter-tall knickpoint migrated upstream 200 meters in the first hour. Rapid knickpoint migration triggered bank collapse in the unconsolidated fill, which swiftly widened the channel. Over the following days and months, the knickpoint migrated slowly upchannel, simultaneously lowering and becoming less distinct. By May 2008, a riffle-like feature approximately 1 m high, a few tens of meters long, and 2 km upstream from the breached dam persisted. Knickpoint and lateral erosion evacuated ~100,000 cubic meters of sediment from the reservoir in the first 60 hours, and by the end of high flows in May 2008 about 350,000 cubic meters (45 percent of the initial reservoir volume) had been evacuated. Large stormflows in November 2008 and January 2009 eroded another 39,000 cubic meters of sediment. Thus, within 15 months of breaching, about 55 percent of the impounded sediment (390,000 cubic meters) had been eroded. Two years after breaching, only another 10,000 m3 (~400,000 m3 total) had been eroded. About 30 percent of the eroded sediment has been redeposited in a tapered wedge of sediment that extends 2 km from the former dam site to the entrance of a confined bedrock gorge. Much of the balance of the eroded sediment is distributed along and partly fills pools within the Sandy River gorge, a narrow bedrock canyon extending 2–9 km downstream of the former dam site, and along the channel farther downstream.

Publication Year 2010
Title Evolving fluvial response of the Sandy River, Oregon, following removal of Marmot Dam
Authors Jon J. Major, Jim O'Connor, Charles J. Podolak, Mackenzie K. Keith, Kurt R. Spicer, J. Rose Wallick, Heather M. Bragg, Smokey Pittman, Peter R. Wilcock, Abagail Rhode, Gordon E. Grant
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70156772
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center