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Bank erosion along the dam-regulated lower Roanoke River, North Carolina

By
Cliff R Hupp
Cliff R Hupp
U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 430, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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Edward R Schenk
Edward R Schenk
U.S. Geological Survey, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 430, Reston, Virginia 20192, USA
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Jean M Richter
Jean M Richter
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 114 West Water Street, Windsor, North Carolina 27983, USA
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Robert K Peet
Robert K Peet
Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA
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Philip A Townsend
Philip A Townsend
Department of Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA
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Published:
May 2009

Dam construction and its impact on downstream fluvial processes may substantially alter ambient bank stability and erosion. Three high dams (completed between 1953 and 1963) were built along the Piedmont portion of the Roanoke River, North Carolina; just downstream the lower part of the river flows across largely unconsolidated Coastal Plain deposits. To document bank erosion rates along the lower Roanoke River, >700 bank-erosion pins were installed along 66 bank transects. Additionally, discrete measurements of channel bathymetry, turbidity, and presence or absence of mass wasting were documented along the entire study reach (153 km). A bank-erosionfloodplain-deposition sediment budget was estimated for the lower river. Bank toe erosion related to consistently high low-flow stages may play a large role in increased mid- and upper-bank erosion. Present bank-erosion rates are relatively high and are greatest along the middle reaches (mean 63 mm/yr) and on lower parts of the bank on all reaches. Erosion rates were likely higher along upstream reaches than present erosion rates, such that erosion-rate maxima have since migrated downstream. Mass wasting and turbidity also peak along the middle reaches; floodplain sedimentation systematically increases downstream in the study reach. The lower Roanoke River is net depositional (on floodplain) with a surplus of ~2,800,000 m3/yr. Results suggest that unmeasured erosion, particularly mass wasting, may partly explain this surplus and should be part of sediment budgets downstream of dams.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Management and Restoration of Fluvial Systems with Broad Historical Changes and Human Impacts

Edited by
L. Allan James
L. Allan James
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Sara L. Rathburn
Sara L. Rathburn
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G. Richard Whittecar
G. Richard Whittecar
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Geological Society of America
Volume
451
ISBN print:
9780813724515
Publication date:
2009

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