Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2012

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5154
Prepared in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transporation and Public Facilities
By:  and 



Streambed scour potential was evaluated at 18 river- and stream-spanning bridges in Alaska that have unknown foundation details or a lack of existing scour analysis. All sites were evaluated for stream stability and long-term scour potential. Contraction scour and abutment scour were calculated for 17 bridges, and pier scour was calculated for 7 bridges that had piers. Vertical contraction (pressure flow) scour was calculated for sites with overtopping floods (where the modeled water surface was higher than the superstructure of the bridge). In most cases, hydraulic models of the 1- and 0.2-percent annual exceedance probability floods (also known as the 100- and 500-year floods, respectively) were used to derive hydraulic variables for the scour calculations. Alternate flood values were used in scour calculations for sites where smaller floods overtopped a bridge or where standard flood-frequency estimation techniques did not apply. Scour was also calculated for large recorded floods at several sites. Equations for scour in cohesive soils were used for sites where streambed sediment was silt-sized or smaller.

Channel instability at four sites was related to human activities (in-channel mining, dredging, and channel relocation). Three of the dredged sites are located on active unstable alluvial fans and were graded to inhibit aggradation. The trend toward aggradation during major floods at these sites greatly reduces confidence in scour estimates.

Vertical contraction and pressure flow occurred during 1 percent or smaller annual exceedance probability floods at five sites, including three aggradation sites. Contraction scour exceeded 5 feet at two sites, and total scour at piers (pier scour plus contraction scour) exceeded 5 feet at two sites. Debris accumulation increased calculated pier scour at six sites by an average of 1.2 feet. Total scour at abutments including contraction scour exceeded 5 feet at seven sites. Scour estimates seemed excessive at aggradation sites where upstream sediment supply controls scour and deposition processes, at cohesive soil sites where conservative assumptions were made for soil strength and flood duration, and for abutment scour at sites where failure of the embankment and attendant channel widening would reduce scour.

Suggested Citation

Beebee, R.A., and Schauer, P.V., 2015, Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2012: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5154, 45 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Flood Frequency Estimates
  • Stream Stability and Geomorphic Assessment
  • Scour Calculations
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Appendix A. Stream Stability Cross Sections
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2012
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2015-5154
DOI 10.3133/sir20155154
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Water
Description Report: vi, 45 p.; Appendix
Time Range Start 2012-01-01
Time Range End 2012-12-31
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details