Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2013–15

December 27, 2017

Streambed scour potential was evaluated at 52 river- and stream-spanning bridges in Alaska that lack a quantitative scour analysis or have unknown foundation details. All sites were evaluated for stream stability and long-term scour potential. Contraction scour and abutment scour were calculated for 52 bridges, and pier scour was calculated for 11 bridges that had piers. Vertical contraction (pressure flow) scour was calculated for sites where the modeled water surface was higher than the superstructure of the bridge. In most cases, hydraulic models of the 1- and 0.2-percent annual exceedance probability floods (also known as the 100- and 500-year floods, respectively) were used to derive hydraulic variables for the scour calculations. Alternate flood values were used in scour calculations for sites where smaller floods overtopped a bridge or where standard flood-frequency estimation techniques did not apply. Scour also was calculated for large recorded floods at 13 sites.

Channel instability at 11 sites was related to human activities (in-channel mining, dredging, and channel relocation). Eight of the dredged sites are located on active unstable alluvial fans and were graded to protect infrastructure. The trend toward aggradation during major floods at these sites reduces confidence in scour estimates.

Vertical contraction and pressure flow occurred during the 0.2-percent or smaller annual exceedance probability floods at eight sites. Contraction scour exceeded 5 feet (ft) at four sites, and total scour at piers (pier scour plus contraction scour) exceeded 5 ft at four sites. Debris accumulation increased calculated pier scour at six sites by an average of 2.4 ft. Total scour at abutments exceeded 5 ft at 10 sites. Scour estimates seemed excessive at two piers where equations did not account for channel armoring, and at four abutments where failure of the embankment and attendant channel widening would reduce scour.

Publication Year 2017
Title Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2013–15
DOI 10.3133/sir20175149
Authors Robin A. Beebee, Karenth L. Dworsky, Schyler J. Knopp
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5149
Index ID sir20175149
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Water