Research Reports

Sediment Transport through Recessed Culverts: Laboratory Experiments

Principal Investigator:

Jessica Kozarek, Sara Mielke

March 2015

Report no. MnDOT 2015-08

Projects: Laboratory Study of Culvert Sedimentation for Fish Passage

Topics: Environment

Recessed culverts are often installed in Minnesota to facilitate aquatic organism passage (AOP) by providing a natural streambed through the culvert. The least expensive option when installing a recessed culvert is to allow the culvert to fill in with sediment naturally over time; however, previous field studies suggest that in many cases, sediment fails to deposit within the culvert. The objective of this research was to understand the function of a culvert set below the streambed elevation under various sediment transport conditions. Laboratory experiments were designed to assess the performance of recessed culverts across a range of geomorphic characteristics representative of Minnesota streams. These experiments explored the functionality of a culvert that is prefilled with sediment representative of the stream as a part of the installation process against one that is empty after installation and assessed the potential for headcutting and downstream degradation. The experiments evaluated the need for artificial roughness installations within recessed culverts in high gradient streams. Three sets of experiments were conducted examining: 1) the effect of sediment grain size, slope, and flow hydrograph on sediment transport through a single recessed box culvert, 2) the effect of bed roughness structures on sediment stability in a single recessed box culvert in high-gradient streams, and 3) the effect of culvert offset and skew on sedimentation in multi-barrel culverts.

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