Level II scour analysis for Bridge 48 (FFIETH00300048) on Town Highway 30, crossing Wanzer Brook, Fairfield, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-592

Prepared in cooperation with Vermont Agency of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration



This report provides the results of a detailed Level II analysis of scour potential at structure FFIETH00300048 on Town Highway 30 crossing Wanzer Brook, Fairfield, Vermont (figures 1–8). A Level II study is a basic engineering analysis of the site, including a quantitative analysis of stream stability and scour (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1993). Results of a Level I scour investigation also are included in Appendix E of this report. A Level I investigation provides a qualitative geomorphic characterization of the study site. Information on the bridge, gleaned from Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTAOT) files, was compiled prior to conducting Level I and Level II analyses and is found in Appendix D.

The site is in the Green Mountain section of the New England physiographic province in northwestern Vermont. The 6.78-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover upstream of the bridge and on the downstream right bank is primarily pasture. The downstream left bank is forested.

In the study area, Wanzer Brook has an incised, straight channel with a slope of approximately 0.03 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 65 ft and an average bank height of 5 ft. The channel bed material is cobble with a median grain size (D50) of 111 mm (0.364 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on July 11, 1995, indicated that the reach was stable.

The Town Highway 30 crossing of Wanzer Brook is a 31-ft-long, two-lane bridge consisting of one 28-foot steel-beam span (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 8, 1995). The opening length of the structure parallel to the bridge face is 26 ft.The bridge is supported by vertical stone wall abutments with concrete caps and “kneewall” footings. The channel is skewed approximately 25 degrees to the opening while the measured opening-skew-to-roadway is 20 degrees.

A scour hole 1.5 ft deeper than the mean thalweg depth was observed along the downstream left retaining wall (extended concrete footing) during the Level I assessment. It was also observed that the right abutment is undermined with a scour depth of 0.5 ft. The scour protection at the site was limited to four large boulders (type-4, less than 60 inches diameter) along the downstream right retaining wall. The channel under the bridge is a “corduroy” log mat floor composed of 13 logs which are parallel to the bridge face and extend from 5 ft under the bridge to the downstream bridge face. The most downstream log is approximately 0.3 to 0.4 ft higher than the other logs and controls flow at lower flows. Additional details describing conditions at the site are included in the Level II Summary and Appendices D and E.

Scour depths and recommended rock rip-rap sizes were computed using the general guidelines described in Hydraulic Engineering Circular 18 (Richardson and others, 1995). Total scour at a highway crossing is comprised of three components: 1) long-term streambed degradation; 2) contraction scour (due to accelerated flow caused by a reduction in flow area at a bridge) and; 3) local scour (caused by accelerated flow around piers and abutments). Total scour is the sum of the three components. Equations are available to compute depths for contraction and local scour and a summary of the results of these computations follows.

Contraction scour for all modelled flows ranged from 0.3 to 0.6 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Abutment scour ranged from 14.1 to 16.0 ft at the left abutment and from 6.8 to 7.6 ft at the right abutment. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Additional information on scour depths and depths to armoring are included in the section titled “Scour Results”. Scoured-streambed elevations, based on the calculated scour depths, are presented in tables 1 and 2. A cross-section of the scour computed at the bridge is presented in figure 8. Scour depths were calculated assuming an infinite depth of erosive material and a homogeneous particle-size distribution.

It is generally accepted that the Froehlich equation (abutment scour) gives “excessively conservative estimates of scour depths” (Richardson and others, 1995, p. 47). Usually, computed scour depths are evaluated in combination with other information including (but not limited to) historical performance during flood events, the geomorphic stability assessment, existing scour protection measures, and the results of the hydraulic analyses. Therefore, scour depths adopted by VTAOT may differ from the computed values documented herein.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Level II scour analysis for Bridge 48 (FFIETH00300048) on Town Highway 30, crossing Wanzer Brook, Fairfield, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 48 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Wanzer Brook