Level II scour analysis for Bridge 18 (GROTTH00480018) on Town Highway 48, crossing the Wells River Groton, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-626

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



This report provides the results of a detailed Level II analysis of scour potential at structure GROTTH00480018 on Town Highway 48 crossing the Wells River, Groton, 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 New England Upland section of the New England physiographic province in eastern Vermont. The 53.6-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover is pasture on the right bank upstream and the left bank downstream while the surface cover is shrub and brushland along the left bank upstream and the right bank downstream. The immediate banks are vegetated with brush and scattered trees.

In the study area, the Wells River has an incised, straight channel with a slope of approximately 0.003 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 69 ft and an average bank height of 7 ft. The channel bed material ranges from sand to cobble with a median grain size (D50) of 66.7 mm (0.219 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on August 28, 1995, indicated that the reach was stable.

The Town Highway 48 crossing of the Wells River is a 38-ft-long, one-lane bridge consisting of one 36-foot steel-beam span (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 24, 1995). The opening length of the structure parallel to the bridge face is 33.7 ft. The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with wingwalls. The channel is skewed approximately 0 degrees to the opening and the opening-skew-toroadway is also 0 degrees.

Local scour 3.25 ft deeper than the mean thalweg depth was observed underneath the bridge along the left and right abutments during the Level I assessment. In addition, a scour hole extends from 90 ft US to 50 ft DS for a total length of 115 ft with an average scour depth of 2.0 ft. The only scour protection measure at the site was type-2 stone fill (less than 36 inches diameter) along the left bank upstream, along the entire base length of the downstream right wingwall, and along the left and right banks downstream; and type-1 stone fill (less than 12 inches diameter) along the entire base length of the upstream left wingwall. 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) for the 100- and 500-year discharges. In addition, the incipient roadway-overtopping discharge is determined and analyzed as another potential worst-case scour scenario. 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 was 0.0 ft. Abutment scour ranged from 2.0 to 2.3 ft at the left abutment and 8.8 to 14.6 ft at the right abutment. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 500-year discharge at the right abutment. 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 18 (GROTTH00480018) on Town Highway 48, crossing the Wells River Groton, Vermont
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Pembroke, NH
iv, 51 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Wells River