A bathymetric and velocimetry survey was conducted on the Mississippi River in the vicinity of a proposed new bridge for Interstate 70 at St. Louis, Missouri. A multibeam echo sounder mapping system and an acoustic Doppler current profiler were used to obtain channel-bed elevations and vertically averaged and near-bed velocities for a 3,545-foot (1,080-meter) long reach of the Mississippi River approximately 1,935 feet (590 meters) wide from the Illinois to Missouri banks. Data from the 2009 survey were used to determine the conditions of the benthic habitat in the vicinity of the proposed Interstate 70 bridge.
The channel-bed elevations ranged from approximately 346 feet (105.46 meters) to 370 feet (112.78 meters) above the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 in a majority of the channel except for the channel banks. Large dune features up to 12.5 feet (3.81 meters) high were present in the middle of the channel, and numerous smaller dunes and many ripples as smaller features were superimposed on the larger dunes. However, it is uncertain if the large dune features present in mid-channel are long-term features or an artifact of the seasonal flooding on the Mississippi River. A substantial scour depression was present on the right descending bank (Missouri side) near the downstream end of the study area, as well as other smaller scour holes near the instream barge mooring structures on the Missouri bank.
The vertically averaged velocities acquired with the acoustic Doppler current profiler ranged from approximately 2 feet per second (0.61 meters per second) along the channel margins to approximately 7.0 feet per second (2.13 meters per second) in the main channel, with an average velocity of 5.5 feet per second (1.68 meters per second) in mid-channel. The orientation of the vertically averaged velocity vectors showed flow crossing from the Illinois bank to the Missouri bank from upstream to downstream in the study area, which was confirmed by the orientation of the large dune features in mid-channel and a shift in the channel thalweg from the Illinois bank to the Missouri bank. The near-bottom velocities acquired with the acoustic Doppler current profiler ranged from 0.3 to 7.0 feet per second (0.09 to 2.13 meters per second), and the effects of the large dune features were apparent in the more random scattering of the velocity vectors, the low velocities downstream from the dunes, and higher velocities near the crests of the dunes.
Despite the considerable physical complexity of this site because of the arrangement of large sand dunes in the middle of the channel, existing studies do not document persistent use of these deep, fast, main-channel habitats by pallid sturgeon. Narrow channel-margin areas on both banks having relatively low velocity, high depth slope, and high velocity gradients are similar to adult migration habitats as documented on the Missouri River downstream from Kansas City, Missouri. Although the reach generally lacks features associated with sturgeon habitat selection on the Middle Mississippi River, the barge mooring areas on the right descending bank have topographic complexity and contain large woody debris and small patches of probable gravel-cobble substrate that may have positive habitat value for sturgeon or other species. Furthermore, telemetry studies have documented sturgeon migrating upstream and downstream through this reach as adults, and they probably drift downstream through this reach as free-embryo larvae. Successful upstream migration may depend on availability of areas with hydraulic complexity and relatively low velocities, as presently exist on the margins of the site. Additionally, complexity at the channel margin may provide areas where larvae settle out from drifting in the main current or may act to slow bulk drift rates. Construction of bridge piers close to the banks will likely alter hydraulics and sediment transport on the channel margins and may result in substanti