1 Lecture 3 Subsidence and Silt: Why Are They So Important? J. David Rogers, Ph.D., P.E., R.G. Karl F. Hasselmann Chair in Geological Engineering Missouri University of Science & Technology for the First Annual Levee School Symposium Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 28, 2007
2 Between an average of 35 square miles of land was being lost to the sea each year in the Mississippi Delta; and an average loss of 44 square miles/year of wetlands.
3 Acute wind shear from Hurricane Katrina stripped off large tracts of floating marsh across the Mississippi Delta. Can we construct sustainable levees on these kinds of materials?
4 During Hurricane Katrina, 115 square miles of land area was lost. This shows land loss in Breton Sound (in light blue) after the 2005 hurricane season.
5 MECHANISMS DRIVING GROUND SETTLEMENT The causes of ground settlement are a contentious issue in coastal Louisiana There appear to be many different causes, briefly summarized in the following slides
6 Block diagram illustrating various types of subaqueous sediment instabilities in the Mississippi River Delta, taken from Coleman (1988).
7 FLUID EXTRACTION OF OIL, GAS, AND WATER R.A. Morton of the USGS has blamed oil and gas extraction for the subsidence of the Mississippi Delta. Morton has constructed convincing correlations between petroleum withdrawal and settlement rates on the southern fringes of the delta, near the mouth of the Mississippi, but this theory fails to account for marked settlement further north, where little or no deep withdrawal of oil or gas has been carried out.
8 Growth Faults Geologic cross section through the Gulf Coast Salt Dome Basin, taken from Adams (1997). This shows the retrogressive character of lystric normal faults cutting coastal Louisiana, from north to south. The faults foot in a basement-salt salt- decollement surface of middle Cretaceous age.
9 This plot illustrates the en-echelon echelon belts of growth faults forming more or less parallel to the depressed coastline. The Baton Rouge Fault Zone (shown in orange) has emerged over the past 50 years, north and west of Lake Pontchartrain (data from Woody Gagliano, Coastal Research).
10 Saucier s 1994 structural geology map of the Mississippi Delta, published by the Corps of Engineers. This shows salt basins, salt domes,, and active growth faults that pervade the delta region.
11 Draining lowlands and backswamps for agricultural or urban development increases the effective stress on underlying sediments and hastens rapid biochemical oxidation of organic materials, causing settlement of these surficial soils.
12 New Orleans was built on compressible peaty soils.. This isopach map shows the areal distribution of the surficial peaty soils (contour interval = 4 feet). From Gould and Morgan (1962) and Kolb and Saucier (1982).
13 Compaction of Surficial Sediments The interdistributary sediment package covering the old back swamps around New Orleans are under consolidated, and they exhibit gross settlements. These examples are from the Lakeview area adjacent to the 17 th St. Canal failure, where the ground appears to have settled 10 to 16 inches since 1956.
14 Most residential structures in New Orleans are founded on wood pilings 6 to 8 inches in diameter, driven 30 feet deep. The ground beneath these post-1950 homes has settled 10 to 18 inches. The mechanisms driving this settlement are likely drainage of near-surface soils, by dewatering and interception of storm water runoff, which is collected and conveyed to the city s s pump stations.
15 Industrial and municipal groundwater withdrawal As groundwater levels are depressed by withdrawal of groundwater, organic-rich rich peaty soils are oxidized, and the ground settles. This settlement creates depressed zones below the grade of adjacent watercourses, which creates challenges for providing flood control.
16 Record of historic settlement in the town of Kenner, which is underlain by 6.5 to 8 feet of surficial peaty soils. The steps in these curves were triggered by groundwater withdrawal for industrial use and urban development.. This area was covered by dense cypress swamps prior to development.
17 Much of New Orleans lies below sea level, Lake Ponchartrain, and the Mississippi River, making it particularly vulnerable to flooding. The Mississippi levee crest is 24.5 feet, while the Pontchartrain levee crest is 13.5 feet, above mean gulf level.
18 Topographic map with one foot contours prepared under the direction of New Orleans City Engineer L.W. Brown in This map was prepared using the Cairo Datum, which is feet above Mean Gulf Level
19 Map showing relative elevation change between 1895 and 1999/2002, from URS (2006). The net subsidence was between 2 and 10+ feet, depending on location.
20 STRUCTURAL SURCHARGING An interesting aspect of the URS-FEMA settlement study is the marked increase in settlement in the Central Business District, where tall structures are founded on deep piles. This area settled 5 inches in 100 years, but the settlement was much less away from the heavy structures Even the sandy river levees have settled 2 inches; likely due to surcharging by MR&T levee heightening between
21 Mechanisms of Ground Settlement -1 1) Elastic deformation of Mississippi Delta from silt deposition (isostasy( isostasy) 2) Tectonic compaction caused by formation of pressure ridges and folding 3) Subsidence on seaward side of lystric growth faults 4) Drainage of old swamp and marsh deposits increasing stress on underlying clays 5) Biochemical oxidation of peaty soils
22 Mechanisms of Ground Settlement -2 6) Consolidation of compressible soils caused by surcharging with fill 7) Surcharging by structural improvements 8) Reduced groundwater recharge in developed areas because of impermeable surfaces 9) Extraction of oil, gas, and water causing pressure depletion 10) Solutioning of salt domes and seaward migration of low density materials (salt and shale)
23 Coastal land loss in Louisiana is also exacerbated by sea level rise,, which averaged about 1 foot during the last 100 years. This value could accelerate during the 21 st Century, to as much as 3 feet.
24 The National Debate that has erupted since Katrina. Can we build levees that won t t fail? Should we, as a society, allow or encourage urban development of lands that are either: 1) below sea level; or, 2) barely above sea level? People who choose to live in high risk areas should pay greater insurance premiums for the privilege of living in those areas Should we bother trying to save the Mississippi Delta? Why? New Orleans ships the greatest volume of exported goods from the USA, mostly wheat, corn, and soy.
25 Is it within the grasp of our society to save the Mississippi Delta? One modern analog The Netherlands, following the 1953 floods; but this also involved a substantial investment, almost 30% of their GNP for 20 years. Can we apply 21 st Century technology to help solve these immense challenges? Diverting sediments onto the land will require a much greater investment in operations and maintenance, several orders of magnitude more than we ve spent heretofore.
26 Can we do a better job of retarding land loss in the Mississippi Delta? We need to think outside the box
27 The Mississippi River drains approximately 41% of the continental United States, discharging about 580 km 3 of water each year (420 billion gpd). Almost 50% of the water comes from the Ohio River, which has 1/6 th of the watershed. The Missouri River encompasses 43% of total watershed area, but only contributes 12% of the discharge.
28 Prior to 1700, the average sediment discharge was about 440 million tons/year, mostly from the Missouri River watershed. This figure has decreased about 50% since 1950, because of dams constructed on Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. This loss somewhat compensated by 5 to 10 fold increase in sediment load carried down the Ohio River, because of row farming and deforestation.
29 Cocodrie Sole-Cypremont Teche St. Bernard Plaquemines Lafourche Balize The river has deposited enormous deltaic lobes during the late Holocene: Balize (550 yrs); Plaquemines ( ); 500); Lafourche ( ); St. Bernard ( ); Teche ( ); Cocodrie ( ); and Sole- Cypremont (>4600).
30 Dynamic Environment: Chandelier Islands; before and after Katrina Wave erosion stripped off sandy cohensionless deposits during Hurricane Katrina 4000 people were killed in this area in the 1915 hurricane
31 Land Loss Barataria Quadrangle Coastal land loss has been accelerating since 1950 Annual sediment volume averaged ~440 million tons/yr prior to 1950
32 Coastal land Loss Empire quadrangle Since 1950, the average sediment load of the Mississippi River has been reduced to about ~215 million tons per year. But, most of this is lost out the jetties
33 Coastal Land Loss since 1932 (red) and land gain (green). We are losing about 50X more land mass than we are saving at present, even with the 2050 plan. (data from Ray Dokka at LSU).
34 The physical situation: the river runs down in a deep hole The design problem: how can we lift sediment from a below sea level channel onto the subsiding land surface?
35 There is significant hydraulic sorting of materials deposited on either side of these levees. Most of the sediment is deposited during brief periods of flood flow; with great percentage occurring 5 to 10 times per century We will have to become much more opportunistic about how we manage the river
36 Hahnville is just upstream of New Orleans Note classic birdfoot pattern of sand-filled distributary channels, shown in yellow Note development
37 Profile of the Lower Mississippi The bed of the Mississippi River is below sea level during the last 450 miles of its course, up to Greenville, Mississippi. We can only extract meaningful amounts of sediment during short-lived periods of high flow.
38 Can we come up with a viable scheme for diverting silt-laden laden waters during brief periods of high flow?
39 Taps (shown in red) would be made at channel bends One idea is to divert the flow of the river during high flows This map shows Artonish, Louisiana Artonish is typical of the Mississippi River s flood plain upstream of Baton Rouge Note multiple meander belts
40 This section shows a pair of proposed tunnel taps 1 and 1.8 miles long, Precast concrete liners could be jacked through the overbank sediments, beneath the river s levees, similar to the Boston Big Dig.
41 Jacking of precast concrete tunnel boxes During the Boston Big Dig, the world s largest precast concrete box tunnel section, for Interstate 90, was hydraulically jacked into position, beneath existing rail lines and bridges
42 Distributors Ability to shift lines Distributor alignments would need to be flexible, to accommod ate even distribution of sediment Flexibility will be key aspect
43 So, what portion of the lower Mississippi River could be targeted for massive flow diversions and be a receptacle for new sediment?
44 Atchafalaya River The Atchafalaya River is both steeper than the Mississippi (3:1 ratio in bed slope) and shorter (225 kilometers to the Gulf of Mexico from the Red River entrance versus 480 kilometers for the Mississippi). Under natural conditions, the Mississippi River would probably have switched its course to the Gulf of Mexico via the Atchafalaya distributary between 1965 and 1975, if not for the levees. The Atchafalaya now drains about 30% of the combined flows of the Mississippi and Red rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.
45 Profiles of the Atchafalaya River. Its steeper gradient would be much more efficient for sediment diversion, transport, and distrbution than the lower Mississippi River.
46 Sediment Accretion at Grand Lake The Atchafalaya Basin is our best analog model for sediment accretion in the delta Historic data on sediment accretion here needs to be analyzed and thoroughly understood
47 The Likely Target Every physical factor save one, would seem to favor the Atchafalaya River for a prototype sediment deposition scheme involving the lower Mississippi River The sediment has be diverted from the Mississippi channel. We should probably begin by evaluating enhancements; options that would use existing facilities, like the Old River Diversion Structures
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