Level II scour analysis for Bridge 21 (MONKTH00340021) on Town Highway 34, crossing Little Otter Creek, Monkton, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-672

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 MONKTH00340021 on Town Highway 34 crossing Little Otter Creek, Monkton, 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 D 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 C.

The site is in the Champlain section of the Saint Lawrence Valley physiographic province in northwestern Vermont. The 34.1-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin with pasture in the valleys. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover consists of pasture. The most significant tree cover is immediately adjacent to the channel on the right bank downstream.

In the study area, Little Otter Creek has a sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.008 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 92 feet and an average bank height of 6 feet. The predominant channel bed materials are silt and clay. Sieve analysis indicates that greater than 50% of the sample is silt and clay and thus a median grain size by use of sieve analysis was indeterminate. Therefore, the median grain size was assumed to be medium silt with a size (D50) of 0.0310 mm (0.000102 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on June 19 and June 20, 1996, indicated that the reach was stable.

The Town Highway 34 crossing of Little Otter Creek is a 50-ft-long, one-lane bridge consisting of one 26-foot concrete span and three “boiler tube” smooth metal pipe culverts through the left road approach (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, December 15, 1995). The opening length of the bridge parallel to the bridge face is 25.1 feet. The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with wingwalls on the right abutment only. The channel is skewed approximately 25 degrees to the opening. The VTAOT records indicate the opening-skew-to-roadway is 20 degrees but measurement from surveyed data suggests the skew is five degrees.

The scour protection measures at the site were type-1 stone fill (less than 12 inches diameter) on the upstream and downstream embankments of the left road approach and type-2 stone fill (less than 36 inches diameter) surrounding the entrance of each culvert. Additional details describing conditions at the site are included in the Level II Summary and Appendices C and D.

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 ranged from 10.3 to 12.3 feet. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Abutment scour ranged from 8.6 to 22.5 feet. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 500-year discharge for the left abutment and at the incipient overtopping discharge for 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 21 (MONKTH00340021) on Town Highway 34, crossing Little Otter Creek, Monkton, 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:
Little Otter Creek