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Characterization of sediment transport upstream and downstream grom Lake Emory on the Little Tennessee River near Franklin, North Carolina, 2014–15

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5081

Prepared in cooperation with Duke Energy
By:
, , and
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175081

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Abstract

Federal, State, and local agencies and organizations have expressed concerns regarding the detrimental effects of excessive sediment transport on aquatic resources and endangered species populations in the upper Little Tennessee River and some of its tributaries. In addition, the storage volume of Lake Emory, which is necessary for flood control and power generation, has been depleted by sediment deposition. To help address these concerns, a 2-year study was conducted in the upper Little Tennessee River Basin to characterize the ambient suspended-sediment concentrations and suspended-sediment loads upstream and downstream from Lake Emory in Franklin, North Carolina. The study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with Duke Energy. Suspended-sediment samples were collected periodically, and time series of stage and turbidity data were measured from December 2013 to January 2016 upstream and downstream from Lake Emory. The stage data were used to compute time-series streamflow. Suspended-sediment samples, along with time-series streamflow and turbidity data, were used to develop regression models that were used to estimate time-series suspended-sediment concentrations for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years. These concentrations, along with streamflow data, were used to compute suspended-sediment loads. Selected suspended-sediment samples were collected for analysis of particle-size distribution, with emphasis on high-flow events. Bed-load samples were also collected upstream from Lake Emory.

The estimated annual suspended-sediment loads (yields) for the upstream site for the 2014 and 2015 calendar years were 27,000 short tons (92 short tons per square mile) and 63,300 short tons (215 short tons per square mile), respectively. The annual suspended-sediment loads (yields) for the downstream site for 2014 and 2015 were 24,200 short tons (75 short tons per square mile) and 94,300 short tons (292 short tons per square mile), respectively. Overall, the suspended-sediment load at the downstream site was about 28,300 short tons greater than the upstream site over the study period.

As expected, high-flow events (the top 5 percent of daily mean flows) accounted for the majority of the sediment load; 80 percent at the upstream site and 90 percent at the downstream site. A similar relation between turbidity (the top 5 percent of daily mean turbidity) and high loads was also noted. In general, when instantaneous streamflows at the upstream site exceeded 5,000 cubic feet per second, increased daily loads were computed at the downstream site. During low to moderate flows, estimated suspended-sediment loads were lower at the downstream site when compared to the upstream site, which suggests that sediment deposition may be occurring in the intervening reach during those conditions. During the high-flow events, the estimated suspended-sediment loads were higher at the downstream site; however, it is impossible to say with certainty whether the increase in loading was due to scouring of lake sediment, contributions from the additional source area, model error, or a combination of one or more of these factors. The computed loads for a one-week period (December 24–31, 2015), during which the two largest high-flow events of the study period occurred, were approximately 52 percent of the 2015 annual sediment load (36 percent of 2-year load) at the upstream site and approximately 72 percent of the 2015 annual sediment load (57 percent of 2-year load) at the downstream site. Six bedload samples were collected during three events; two high-flow events and one base-flow event. The contribution of bedload to the total sediment load was determined to be insignificant for sampled flows. In general, streamflows for long-term streamgages in the study area were below normal for the majority of the study period; however, flows during the last 3 months of the study period were above normal, including the extreme events during the last week of the study period.

Suggested Citation

Huffman, B.A., Hazell, W.F., and Oblinger, C.J., 2017, Characterization of sediment transport upstream and downstream from Lake Emory on the Little Tennessee River near Franklin, North Carolina, 2014–15: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5081, 30 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175081.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Analysis of Observed and Historical Data
  • Data-Collection Methods
  • Data Analysis
  • Summary and Conclusions 
  • Acknowledgments 
  • References Cited
  • Glossary 

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Characterization of sediment transport upstream and downstream grom Lake Emory on the Little Tennessee River near Franklin, North Carolina, 2014–15
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2017-5081
DOI:
10.3133/sir20175081
Year Published:
2017
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description:
vii, 30 p.
Country:
United States
State:
North Carolina
Other Geospatial:
Lake Emory; Tennessee River Basin
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N