Wave-Current Interaction at Wells Inlet, Maine

by Christopher G. Mariano, Rizzo Associates, Natick, United States,
Duncan M. FitzGerald, Rizzo Associates, Natick, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Sediments


Wells Inlet is a jettied waterway along the southern coast of Maine. Since its initial structuring and dredging for harborage, the inlet has been plagued by severe shoaling. The jetties are constructed normal to the dominant wave approach and during large swell and wave conditions, breaking waves in the entrance channel prevent vessels from passing through the inlet. Despite several structural modifications and dredging attempts, shoaling and large waves have persisted. Tidal currents in the inlet entrance channel are segregated into flood and ebb-dominated areas. Average maximum ebb currents in the thalweg exceed flood velocities by 16 cm/sec. The shallow regions adjacent to the jetties exhibit stronger flood velocities (up to 17 cm/sec stronger). Waves breaking inside the inlet create pulses of landward flow that enhance flood currents and retard ebb currents. This wave condition is best defined by Solitary Wave Theory, where water parcels move only in the direction of wave propagation, with negligible return flow with the passage of the trough. The thalweg exhibits slight net seaward transport while there is net landward sediment transport along the sides of the channel. Storm waves and large swell produce a dominant landward transport of sand through the inlet.

Subject Headings: Inlets (waterway) | Breaking waves | Solitary waves | Water waves | Tides | Wells (water) | Sediment transport | Floods | Maine | United States

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