Development and Use of a Sedimentation Risk Index for Unpaved Road-Stream Crossings in the Choctawhatchee Watershed1

Authors

  • Patrick L. Witmer,

    1. Respectively, Graduate Research Assistant and Professor, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Troy University, Troy, Alabama 36082
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  • Paul M. Stewart,

    1. Respectively, Graduate Research Assistant and Professor, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Troy University, Troy, Alabama 36082
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  • Christopher K. Metcalf

    1. Private Lands Coordinator, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Panama City, Florida 32405.
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  • 1

    Paper No. JAWRA-08-0096-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

(E-Mail/Stewart: mstewart@troy.edu).

Abstract

Abstract:  Unpaved road-stream crossings increase sediment yields in streams and alter channel morphology and stability. Before restoration and sedimentation reduction strategies can be implemented, a priority listing of unpaved road-stream crossings must be created. The objectives of this study were to develop a sedimentation risk index (SRI) for unpaved road-stream crossings and to prioritize 125 sites in the Choctawhatchee watershed (southeastern Alabama) using this model. Field surveys involved qualitative and quantitative observations of 73 metrics related to waterway conditions, crossing structures, road approaches, and roadside soil erosion. The road-stream crossing risk analyses involved elimination of candidate metrics based on redundancy, skewness, lack of data, professional judgment, lack of nonzero values, unbalanced box plots, and limited ranges of values. A final selection of 12 metrics formed the SRI and weighed factors involving soil erodibility, road sedimentation abatement features, and stream morphology alteration. The SRI was organized into narrative categories (excellent, good, fair, poor, and very poor) based on the distribution of scores. No excellent sites (scores ≥55) were found in this study, 17 (20.7%) were good (low sedimentation risk), 37 (45.1%) were fair (moderate sedimentation risk), 26 (31.7%) were poor (high sedimentation risk), and two (2.5%) were very poor (high sedimentation risk). There was no significant difference in SRI scores among crossing structure type (round culverts, box culverts, and bridges) (H = 4.31, df = 2, p = 0.058). A future study of the Choctawhatchee watershed involving the same study sites could assess the success of restoration plans and activities based on site score improvement or decline.

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