Forcing functions governing salt transport processes in coastal navigation canals and connectivity to surrounding marshes in South Louisiana using Houma Navigation Canal as a surrogate

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Abstract

Understanding how circulation and mixing processes in coastal navigation canals influence the exchange of salt between marshes and coastal ocean, and how those processes are modulated by external physical processes, is critical to anticipating effects of future actions and circumstance. Examples of such circumstances include deepening the channel, placement of locks in the channel, changes in freshwater discharge down the channel, changes in outer continental shelf (OCS) vessel traffic volume, and sea level rise. The study builds on previous BOEM-funded studies by investigating salt flux variability through the Houma Navigation Canal (HNC). It examines how external physical factors, such as buoyancy forcing and mixing from tidal stirring and OCS vessel wakes, influence dispersive and advective fluxes through the HNC and the impact of this salt flux on salinity in nearby marshes. This study quantifies salt transport processes and salinity variability in the HNC and surrounding Terrebonne marshes. Data collected for this study include time-series data of salinity and velocity in the HNC, monthly salinity-depth profiles along the length of the channel, hourly vertical profiles of velocity and salinity over multiple tidal cycles, and salinity time series data at three locations in the surrounding marshes along a transect of increasing distance from the HNC. Two modes of vertical current structure were identified. The first mode, making up 90% of the total flow field variability, strongly resembled a barotropic current structure and was coherent with alongshelf wind stress over the coastal Gulf of Mexico. The second mode was indicative of gravitational circulation and was linked to variability in tidal stirring and the longitudinal salinity gradients along the channel’s length. Diffusive process were dominant drivers of upestuary salt transport, except during periods of minimal tidal stirring when gravitational circulation became more important. Salinity in the surrounding marshes was much more responsive to salinity variations in the HNC than it was to variations in the lower Terrebonne marshes, suggesting that the HNC is the primary conduit for saltwater intrusion to the middle Terrebonne marshes. Finally, salt transport to the middle Terrebonne marshes directly associated with vessel wakes was negligible.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Forcing functions governing salt transport processes in coastal navigation canals and connectivity to surrounding marshes in South Louisiana using Houma Navigation Canal as a surrogate
Volume BOEM 2014-607
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Department of the Interior
Publisher location New Orleans, LA
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center
Description xxi, 64 p.
First page 1
Last page 64
Country United States
State Louisiana
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N