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Observed Erosion Processes During Embankment Overtopping Tests

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  032066,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.13767) @2003
Authors:   G. J. Hanson, K. R. Cook, S. L. Britton
Keywords:   Flooding, dam, breach, erosion, headcut, embankments, overtopping, discharge, soil

The timing and formation process of a dam embankment breach due to flood overtopping can dramatically impact the rate that water is released from a reservoir. This rate of water released directly impacts the hazard to life and property downstream of a breached dam. Therefore, dam embankment erosion and breaching from overtopping events is important to both engineers and planners alike, who must predict impacts on local communities and surrounding areas affected by flooding. There is a distinct difference between the erosion processes of a non-cohesive and cohesive embankment during overtopping. The USDA-ARS has conducted 7 overtopping failure tests on embankments constructed of cohesive materials. The objectives of this paper are to 1) summarize the observed breach erosion processes from the 7 tests into a 4 stage process description, 2) provide a detailed description of the erosion processes, breach initiation, breach formation and lateral widening and 3) compare results with dimensionless parameters from historical data. The headcut migration rate and widening rates are observed to vary by orders of magnitude depending on soil materials, yet the migration rate and widening rate are on the same order of magnitude for the same soil material.

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