American Society of Civil Engineers

Flow Velocity and Pier Scour Prediction in a Compound Channel: Big Sioux River Bridge at Flandreau, South Dakota

by Ryan J. Larsen, (Hydraulic Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Omaha, NE 68102.), Francis C. K. Ting, (corresponding author), A.M.ASCE, (Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, South Dakota State Univ., Brookings, SD 57007 E-mail:, and Allen L. Jones, M.ASCE, (Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, South Dakota State Univ., Brookings, SD 57007.)

Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, Vol. 137, No. 5, May 2011, pp. 595-605, (doi:

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Document type: Case Studies
Abstract: The two-dimensional (2D) depth-averaged river model Finite-Element Surface-Water Modeling System (FESWMS) was used to predict flow distribution at the bend of a compound channel. The site studied was the Highway 13 bridge over the Big Sioux River in Flandreau, South Dakota. The Flandreau site has complex channel and floodplain geometry that produces unique flow conditions at the bridge crossing. The 2D model was calibrated using flow measurements obtained during two floods in 1993. The calibrated model was used to examine the hydraulic and geomorphic factors that affect the main channel and floodplain flows and the flow interactions between the two portions. A one-dimensional (1D) flow model of the bridge site was also created in Hydrologic Engineering Centers River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) for comparison. Soil samples were collected from the bridge site and tested in an erosion function apparatus (EFA) to determine the critical shear stress and erosion rate constant. The results of EFA testing and 2D flow modeling were used as inputs to the Scour Rate in Cohesive Soils (SRICOS) method to predict local scour at the northern and southernmost piers. The sensitivity of predicted scour depth to the hydraulic and soil parameters was examined. The predicted scour depth was very sensitive to the approach-flow velocity and critical shear stress. Overall, this study has provided a better understanding of 2D flow effects in compound channels and an overall assessment of the SRICOS method for prediction of bridge pier scour.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Highway bridges
Two-dimensional flow
Hydraulic models
Cohesive soils
South Dakota

Author Keywords:
Compound channel
Two-dimensional flow modeling
Bridge hydraulics
Pier scour
Cohesive soils