Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016CO322B

Evaluating wood jam stability in rivers

Institute: Colorado
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $2,500

Principal Investigators: Ellen Wohl

Abstract: Instream and floodplain wood provide ecological benefits such as habitat and refuge for plants and animals, enhancement of primary productivity, and enhancement of nutrient cycling. Wood also provides significant geomorphic benefits by retaining sediment and water. Unfortunately, mobile wood can damage infrastructure built near rivers and can increase flow stage and flood risk. This has led to widespread removal of wood in rivers in the past. The risks posed by wood in rivers depend primarily on wood piece/jam mobility, which is currently very difficult to evaluate. We propose a field investigation that will develop an understanding of the factors that control wood jam mobility. This field investigation will involve counting and measuring wood before and after a high flow season to evaluate the internal (intrinsic to the wood piece or jam) and external (relating to the environment in which the wood currently resides) factors that control wood mobility. We will use this understanding to develop a toolkit for river managers that will allow for the evaluation of the stability of wood pieces and jams. By effectively evaluating the stability of wood in the channel and on the floodplain, managers will be able to maximize the benefits wood provides to rivers and make informed public safety decisions by only removing wood that poses a significant risk to infrastructure and people.