Sediment resuspension by vessel-generated waves along the Savannah River, Georgia

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Journal of Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Engineering





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Sediment resuspension, Sediment transport, Vessel-generated waves


Vessel-generated waves have the potential to erode the shoreline where there is regular commercial and recreational boat traffic in otherwise low-energy estuarine and fetch-limited environments. Whereas it is well established that vessel-generated waves are capable of resuspending significant quantities of bottom and bank sediment, there are limited field data showing how and when sediment is resuspended by the wake and the direction of net transport. This paper presents the results of an instrumented field study to measure sediment resuspension and transport in response to wakes generated by supercritical pilot boats and subcritical container ships at the mouth of the Savannah River in Georgia. Suspended sediment concentrations increase with the turbulent kinetic energy of the supercritical pilot-boat wake. The amount of sediment resuspended dependent on the available supply of sediment on the upper-foreshore. Whereas sediment is transported landward by the individual waves of the group, net transport is offshore in response to a low-frequency oscillation similar to a second-order group-forced current. In some cases, the direction of net transport is reinforced or reversed depending on the timing of the pilot-boat wake with the seiche forced by a passing container ship. In contrast to the pilot boats, sediment transport by subcritical container ships tends to be landward, but can also be weakly offshore depending on the timing of the wave group with the low-frequency drawdown and surge. © 2011 American Society of Civil Engineers.