SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • dam removal;
  • erosion;
  • fluvial geomorphology;
  • sedimentation

[1] Dam removal projects are playing an increasingly important role in stream restoration, and offer unparalleled opportunities to study sediment dynamics following disturbance. We used the removal of the ∼4-m high Merrimack Village Dam (MVD) on the Souhegan River in southern New Hampshire to measure processes and rates of channel evolution in a sand-filled impoundment. From 2007 to 2010, we repeatedly surveyed 11 cross sections and the longitudinal profile, and collected sediment samples to measure changes in channel morphology and bed texture. The dam removal in August 2008 resulted in a nearly instantaneous base level drop of 3.9 m and caused a two-phased channel response. The initial, process-driven phase (2 months) was characterized by rapid incision and removal of the impounded sand (up to 1013 t d−1), followed by channel widening. Once incised to base level, the rate of sediment removal slowed (30.7 t d−1) and adjustments became event-driven, and the former impoundment segmented into a nonalluvial section and an alluvial section with erosion and deposition influenced by vegetation on the channel banks. Two years after the dam removal and two high-magnitude floods, the river has excavated 79% of the original sediment. Continued response will be substantially influenced by the establishment of bank vegetation within the former impoundment and the magnitude and frequency of high discharge events. Initial channel development and sediment erosion occurs rapidly (weeks to months) in sand-filled impoundments, but excavation of the remaining sediment occurs more slowly depending on vegetation feedbacks and flood events.