Influence of seepage undercutting on the stability of root-reinforced streambanks

Authors

  • Rachel M. Cancienne,

    1. Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University, 120 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
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  • Garey A. Fox,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University, 120 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
    • Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University, 120 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater, OK, USA.
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  • Andrew Simon

    1. USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory, Oxford, MS 38655, USA
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Abstract

Several mechanisms contribute to streambank failure including fluvial toe undercutting, reduced soil shear strength by increased soil pore-water pressure, and seepage erosion. Recent research has suggested that seepage erosion of noncohesive soil layers undercutting the banks may play an equivalent role in streambank failure to increased soil pore-water pressure. However, this past research has primarily been limited to laboratory studies of non-vegetated banks. The objective of this research was to utilize the Bank Stability and Toe Erosion Model (BSTEM) in order to determine the importance of seepage undercutting relative to bank shear strength, bank angle, soil pore-water pressure, and root reinforcement. The BSTEM simulated two streambanks: Little Topashaw Creek and Goodwin Creek in northern Mississippi. Simulations included three bank angles (70° to 90°), four pore-water pressure distributions (unsaturated, two partially saturated cases, and fully saturated), six distances of undercutting (0 to 40 cm), and 13 different vegetation conditions (root cohesions from 0·0 to 15·0 kPa). A relative sensitivity analysis suggested that BSTEM was approximately three to four times more sensitive to water table position than root cohesion or depth of seepage undercutting. Seepage undercutting becomes a prominent bank failure mechanism on unsaturated to partially saturated streambanks with root reinforcement, even with undercutting distances as small as 20 cm. Consideration of seepage undercutting is less important under conditions of partially to fully saturated soil pore-water conditions. The distance at which instability by undercutting became equivalent to instability by increased soil pore-water pressure decreased as root reinforcement increased, with values typically ranging between 20 and 40 cm at Little Topashaw Creek and between 20 and 55 cm at Goodwin Creek. This research depicts the baseline conditions at which seepage undercutting of vegetated streambanks needs to be considered for bank stability analyses. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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