The Effects of Culverts and Bridges on Stream Geomorphology

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Title: The Effects of Culverts and Bridges on Stream Geomorphology
Author: Merrill, MaximilIan Atlas
Advisors: Dr Samuel Mozley, Committee Member
Dr James Gregory, Committee Chair
Dr Garry Grabow, Committee Member
Abstract: Culverts and bridges are necessary in order to cross waterways during road construction. However, these structures have detrimental affects on the hydrology and ecology of the streams they cross. The objective of this study was to investigate how these bridges and culverts alter stream hydrology and geomorphology by determining the effects on the upstream and downstream reaches of a road crossing on the cross sectional area, the hyporheic depth, on riffle habitat, and substrate types. Three types of culverts (arch, box, and pipe) and small bridges were evaluated. All four types of stream crossings were determined to increase the cross sectional area downstream of the structure. Crossing structures also affected hyporheic zone depths by decreasing average depths downstream of the structure. Finally, most mussels seemed to occur in substrates that were dominated by relatively large particles (gravel and cobble) that were less movable by sheer stress during higher flows. Each of the problems discovered with these structures is a result of the channel restriction and the increased flow velocity and turbulence scour that it creates. These detrimental conditions can be mitigated by providing for floodplain access for higher flows. It is recommended that culverts be designed for low flows and high flows. Oversizing culverts, compared to current design criteria will allow floodplain access and build bankfull benches in the extra openings to restrict low flows to a few openings. The use of bridges that span across the valley limiting fill and allowing floodplain access may even be more beneficial. When valley fill is necessary, then side culverts in the floodplain may alleviate degradation and allow more natural floodplain hydrology.
Date: 2005-12-07
Degree: MS
Discipline: Natural Resources

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