Streambed Scour Evaluations and Conditions at Selected Bridge Sites in Alaska, 2016–17

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5110
Prepared in cooperation with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
By: , and 



Stream stability, flood frequency, and streambed scour potential were evaluated at 20 Alaskan river- and stream-spanning bridges lacking a quantitative scour analysis or having unknown foundation details. Three of the bridges had been assessed shortly before the study described in this report but were re-assessed using different methods or data. Channel instability related to mining may affect scour at one site, while channel instability related to flow distribution changes can be seen at one site. One bridge was closed because of abutment scour prior to the study. Otherwise, channels generally showed stable bed elevations.

Contraction and abutment scour were calculated for all 20 bridges, and pier scour was calculated for the 2 bridges that had piers. Vertical contraction (pressure flow) scour was calculated for one site at which the modeled water surface was higher than the superstructure of the bridge. Hydraulic variables for the scour calculations were derived from one-dimensional and two-dimensional hydraulic models of the 1- and 0.2-percent annual exceedance probability floods (also known as the 100- and 500-year floods, respectively). Scour also was calculated for large recorded floods at two sites.

At many sites, overflow of road approaches relieves the bridge during floods and lessens the potential for scour. Two-dimensional hydraulic models are superior to one-dimensional hydraulic models at distributing flow between bridges, road approaches, and floodplains, and therefore likely produce more reasonable scour values at sites with substantial floodplain flow.

Suggested Citation

Beebee, R.A., Dworsky, K.L., and Knopp, S.J.., 2018, Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2016–17: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5110, 32 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Approach
  • Stream Stability and Geomorphic Assessment
  • Flood History and Frequency Analysis
  • Hydraulic Model Development
  • Stream Bathymetry, Topography, and Bridge Geometry Surveys
  • Discharge Measurements for Calibration
  • Grain-Size Analysis
  • Hydraulic Model Development
  • Scour Calculations
  • Comparisons of Results for Bridges with Both One-Dimensional and Two-Dimensional Models
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Appendix 1. Stream Stability Cross Sections

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Streambed scour evaluations and conditions at selected bridge sites in Alaska, 2016–17
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5110
DOI 10.3133/sir20195110
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Water
Description Report: vi, 32 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Alaska
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details