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Observations of coastal change and numerical modeling of sediment-transport pathways at the mouth of the Columbia River and its adjacent littoral cell

May 29, 2020

Bathymetric and topographic surveys performed annually along the coastlines of northern Oregon and southwestern Washington documented changes in beach and nearshore morphology between 2014 and 2019. Volume change analysis revealed measurable localized erosion and deposition throughout the study area, but significant net erosion at the regional scale (several kilometers [km]) was limited to Benson Beach, Wash., a 3-km-long stretch of coastline immediately north of the Columbia River inlet. Despite the placement of approximately 6.3 million cubic meters (Mm3) of sand dredged from the Columbia River navigational channel at nearshore placement sites located nearby, Benson Beach eroded 2.1±0.8 Mm3 over the 5-year (yr) monitoring time period (420,000 cubic meters/year [m3/yr]). A hydrodynamic and sediment transport model was applied to simulate sediment transport fluxes, and a new visualization technique was developed to evaluate the linkages between nearshore dredge placement sites and adjacent coastlines near the mouth of the Columbia River. The model results indicate the dominance of wave processes on sediment-transport patterns outside of the inlet and suggest that the current configuration of the nearshore dredge placement sites can be improved to more efficiently enhance the sediment budget of Benson Beach to reduce erosion and mitigate associated coastal change hazards.