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Sediment and nutrient trapping as a result of a temporary Mississippi River floodplain restoration: The Morganza Spillway during the 2011 Mississippi River Flood

August 1, 2015

The 2011 Mississippi River Flood resulted in the opening of the Morganza Spillway for the second time since its construction in 1954 releasing 7.6 km3 of water through agricultural and forested lands in the Morganza Floodway and into the Atchafalaya River Basin. This volume, released over 54 days, represented 5.5% of the Mississippi River (M.R.) discharge and 14% of the total discharge through the Atchafalaya River Basin (A.R.B.) during the Spillway operation and 1.1% of the M.R. and 3.3% of the A.R.B. 2011 water year discharge. During the release, 1.03 teragrams (Tg) of sediment was deposited on the Morganza Forebay and Floodway and 0.26 Tg was eroded from behind the Spillway structure. The majority of deposition (86 %) occurred in the Forebay (upstream of the structure) and within 4 km downstream of the Spillway structure with minor deposition on the rest of the Floodway. There was a net deposition of 26 × 10−4 Tg of N and 5.36 × 10−4 Tg of P, during the diversion, that was equivalent to 0.17% N and 0.33% P of the 2011 annual M.R. load. Median deposited sediment particle size at the start of the Forebay was 13 μm and decreased to 2 μm 15 km downstream of the Spillway structure. Minimal accretion was found greater than 4 km downstream of the structure suggesting the potential for greater sediment and nutrient trapping in the Floodway. However, because of the large areas involved, substantial sediment mass was deposited even at distances greater than 30 km. Sediment and nutrient deposition on the Morganza Floodway was limited because suspended sediment was quickly deposited along the flowpath and not refreshed by incremental water exchanges between the Atchafalaya River (A.R.) and the Floodway. Sediment and nutrient trapping could have been greater and more evenly distributed if additional locations of hydraulic input from and outputs to the A.R. (connectivity) were added.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Sediment and nutrient trapping as a result of a temporary Mississippi River floodplain restoration: The Morganza Spillway during the 2011 Mississippi River Flood
DOI 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2015.04.056
Authors Daniel Kroes, Edward R. Schenk, Gregory B. Noe, Adam J. Benthem
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Engineering
Series Number
Index ID 70155503
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Louisiana Water Science Center