Effect of channel restoration on flood wave attenuation
Stream channel restoration can increase flow storage and energy dissipation of passing flood waves. Elements of restoration design that can enhance attenuation include remeandering, which reduces channel slope and increases channel length relative to the floodplain; restoring channel-floodplain connectivity; and revegetating banks and the floodplain. Reestablishment of floodplain hydraulic function is increasingly a goal of restoration programs, yet the approximate magnitude of possible change to attenuation due to reach-scale restoration remains poorly quantified. We examined the efficacy of channel restoration on flood attenuation using restored reaches and synthetic reaches representing median dimensions of channel restoration projects in North Carolina (e.g., ∼1 km in length). We applied an industry standard dynamic flood routing model (UNET in HEC-RAS) to route floods in impaired and restored reach models. Floods routed through field-based reach models either exhibited very small increases in attenuation, largely due to assumed increases in floodplain roughness, or a decrease in attenuation. Analysis demonstrated that attenuation of peak discharge is overall most sensitive to channel and valley slope, channel and floodplain roughness, and channel and valley length in decreasing order, but is dependent on flood magnitude. Restoration most impacted floods of intermediate magnitude (between 2- and 50-year return interval), particularly those confined to the channel under the impaired morphology but able to access the floodplain under the restored morphology. Restoration may rehabilitate a channel's ability to attenuate small to intermediate floods by augmenting flood access to the floodplain, changing channel geometry, and enhancing channel and floodplain roughness over time. However, our study shows that the predominantly small scale of current channel restoration will provide minimally quantifiable enhancement to flood attenuation. © 2011 ASCE.
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