Water Velocities and the Potential for the Movement of Bed Sediments in Sinclair Inlet of Puget Sound, Washington

Open-File Report 98-572

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Sinclair Inlet is a small embayment of Puget Sound in the State of Washington. The inlet, about 6.5 kilometers long and 1.5 kilometers wide, is the site of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. There are concerns that bed sediments in the inlet may have been contaminated as a result of activities at the shipyard, and that these sediments could be resuspended by tide- and wind-driven currents and transported within the inlet or out of the inlet to other parts of Puget Sound. This study was conducted to provide information concerning the potential for sediment resuspension in the inlet. To obtain the necessary data, vertical profiles of water current from about 2 meters above the bed to 2 meters below the water surface were monitored with acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) at three locations during a 6.5-week winter period and a 4.5-week summer period in 1994. In addition, during the winter period, water velocites between 0.19 and 1.20 meters above the bed were measured with current meters using an instrument package called Geoprobe, which was deployed near one of the ADCPs. Other instruments on the Geoprobe measured light transmissivity, and a camera periodically took photographs of the bottom. Instruments on the Geoprobe and on the ADCPs also measured conductivity (for determining salinity), temperature, and pressure (for determinining tide). Samples of bed sediment and water samples for determining suspended-sediment concentration were collected at each of the current-measurement stations. Wind speed and direction were measured at three stations during a 12-month period, and tide was measured at one of these stations. Water currents measured at the three locations in Sinclair Inlet were relatively weak. Typical speeds were 5 to 10 centimeters per second, and the RMS (root-mean-square) speeds were less than 8 centimeters per second. Tidal and residual currents were of similar magnitude. Residual currents near the bottom typically were flowing in the opposite direction of the prevailing wind, while surface currents were in the same direction as the prevailing wind. During most of the year, the prevailing wind was from the soutwest quadrant; however, during July and August, the prevailing wind was usually from the northeast quadrant. The RMS of the total shear velocity for each ADCP station and measurement period, which was estimated from observed profiles of current velocity, ranged from 0.31 centimeters per second to 0.44 centimeters per second. The skin-friction component of the shear velocity was estimated to be no more than half the total. Critical shear velocity, estimated from particle sizes and density of the bed material, was 0.39 centimeters per second or larger. Comparisons of the skin-friction components of total bottom shear velocities with estimates of the critical shear velocity necessary for resuspension of the bed sediments indicate that resuspension occurs only infrequently, usually at times of maximum current during the tidal cycle. This conclusion is supported by measurements near the bed of light transmissivity, which is related to suspended-sediment concentration.

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USGS Numbered Series
Water Velocities and the Potential for the Movement of Bed Sediments in Sinclair Inlet of Puget Sound, Washington
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
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U.S. Geological Survey
vi, 140 p.