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U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4265


Stream Bank Stability in Eastern Nebraska

Prepared in cooperation with the Nebraska Department of Roads, Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, Lower Platte South Natural Resources District, Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Sedimentation Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

By: Phillip J. Soenksen, Mary J. Turner, Benjamin J. Dietsch, U.S. Geological Survey, and Andrew Simon, National Sedimentation Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture

ABSTRACT

Dredged and straightened channels in eastern Nebraska have experienced degradation leading to channel widening by bank failure. Degradation has progressed headward and affected the drainage systems upstream from the modified reaches. This report describes a study that was undertaken to analyze bank stability at selected sites in eastern Nebraska and develop a simplified method for estimating the stability of banks at future study sites. Bank cross sections along straight reaches of channel and geotechnical data were collected at approximately 150 sites in 26 counties of eastern Nebraska. The sites were categorized into three groups based on mapped soil permeability. With increasing permeability of the soil groups, the median cohesion values decreased and the median friction angles increased. Three analytical methods were used to determine if banks were stable (should not fail even when saturated), at risk (should not fail unless saturated), or unstable (should have already failed). The Culmann and Agricultural Research Service methods were based on the Coulomb equation and planar failure; an indirect method was developed that was based on Bishop's simplified method of slices and rotational failure. The maximum angle from horizontal at which the bank would be stable for the given soil and bank height conditions also was computed with the indirect method. Because of few soil shear-strength data, all analyses were based on the assumption of homogeneous banks, which was later shown to be atypical, at least for some banks.

Using the Culmann method and assuming no soil tension cracks, 67 percent of all 908 bank sections were identified as stable, 32 percent were at risk, and 1 percent were unstable; when tension cracks were assumed, the results changed to 58 percent stable, 40 percent at risk, and 1 percent unstable. Using the Agricultural Research Service method, 67 percent of all bank sections were identified as stable and 33 percent were at risk. Using the indirect method, 62 percent of all bank sections were identified as stable and 31 percent were at risk; 3 percent were unstable, and 3 percent were outside of the range of the tables developed for the method. For each of the methods that were used, the largest percentage of stable banks and the smallest percentage of at risk banks was for the soil group with the lowest soil permeability and highest median cohesion values.

A comparison of the expected stable bank angles for saturated conditions and the surveyed bank angles indicated that many of the surveyed bank angles were considerably less than the maximum expected stable bank angles despite the banks being classified as at risk or unstable. For severely degraded channels along straight reaches this was not expected. It was expected that they would have angles close to the maximum stable angle as they should have been failing from an oversteepened condition. Several explanations are possible. The channel reaches of some study sites have not yet been affected to a significant degree by degradation; study sites were selected throughout individual basins and severe degradation has not yet extended to some sites along upper reaches; and some reaches have experienced aggradation as degradation progresses upstream. Another possibility is that some bank sections have been affected by lateral migration processes, which typically result in shallow bank angles on the inside bend of the channel.

Another possibility is that the maximum expected stable bank angles are too steep. The stability methods used were well established and in essential agreement with each other, and there was no reason to question the geometry data. This left non-representative soil data as a probable reason for computed stable bank angles that, at least in some cases, are overly steep. Based on an examination of the cohesion data, to which the stable bank-angle calculations were most sensitive, both vertical and horizontal variability in soil properties appeared likely for many of the sites. Because a weak soil area or an interface of two differing soil areas in a bank can determine where the failure plane will be and what the factor of safety might be, it is not likely that the few soil tests done at each of the sites identified the critical soil parameters needed to accurately assess bank stability or to determine the expected stable bank angle for each bank section. At least for some bank sections, it appears that the summary results of bank stability for this study are overly optimistic. Although some individual bank sections may be accurately portrayed, it is not known which or how many bank sections are accurately classified without more extensive data to determine variability in soil shear strength.

If the variability of soil parameters, especially cohesion, can be determined for a site, and if the variability is small so that average or weakest values can be used to represent the banks, any of the methods demonstrated in this report can be used to make preliminary assessments of channel bank stability at future study sites. An electronic spreadsheet, developed for use with the indirect method, is included on a compact disk at the back of this report and can be used to make preliminary assessments of existing bank stability at study sites or to assess future bank stability under assumptions of degradation or aggradation by imposing projected changes on the existing bank geometry. The user needs cross-section data and estimates of the soil parameters—cohesion, friction angle, and ambient and saturated unit weight—to make the assessments. In addition, the spreadsheet can automatically compute the maximum uniform angle at which a bank section would be expected to be stable, for a given factor of safety, bank height, and soil parameters. For a bank with extensive variability in soil shear-strength, a method needs to be used that can account for multiple soil areas with differing parameters.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Acknowledgments

Data Collection and Description

Topographic Data

Surveying

Average Channel Site Geometry

Geotechnical Data

Soil Testing and Sampling

Laboratory Soil Analyses

Evaluation of Borehole Shear Tests

Generalization of Shear Strength Data

Bank Stability

Shear Strength and Pore Pressure

Culmann Method—Planar Failure

Approach

Results

ARS Method—Planar Failure

Approach

Results

Indirect Method—Rotational Failure

Approach

Analyses for Idealized Straight Banks

Effects of Bank Shape

Application to Studied Bank Sections

Results

Bank Stability Assessment at New Sites

Culmann Method—Planar Failure

Indirect Method—Rotational Failure

Other Considerations

Summary and Conclusions

Selected References

Supplemental Data

FIGURES

 1. Location of loess area of the Midwestern United States and thickness of loess

 2. Location of study area showing river basins and sampling sites in Nebraska.

 3. Generalized classification of soil parent materials showing study area and river basins, Nebraska

 4. Examples of borehole shear test data and interpretations, and values of moisture content and degree of saturation at time of tests

 5. Distribution of soil cohesion (A) and friction angle (B) data from borehole shear tests (BSTs) in the study described in this report compared to corresponding data for loess and alluvial soils from other studies

 6. Conceptual diagram of a bank section and the forces acting on a potential planar failure surface that were used in the Culmann method of stability analysis

 7. Culmann failure-envelope curves for soil group 1, using median parameters and selected soil moisture and tension crack conditions, compared to average channel bank geometry for sites (bank angles, vertically weighted)

 8. Culmann failure-envelope curves for soil group 2, using median parameters and selected soil moisture and tension crack conditions, compared to average channel bank geometry for sites (bank angles, vertically weighted)

 9. Culmann failure-envelope curves for soil group 3-4, using median parameters and selected soil moisture and tension crack conditions, compared to average channel bank geometry for sites (bank angles, vertically weighted).

10. Conceptual diagram of a bank section and the forces acting on a potential planar failure surface that were used in the ARS method of stability analysis

11. Example of rotational failures and minimum factors of safety for ambient (unsaturated) channel-bank sections differing only in cross-sectional shape between the top and toe—(A) convex elliptical, (B) straight, and (C) concave elliptical

12. Example of rotational failures and minimum factors of safety for saturated channel-bank sections differing only in cross-sectional shape between the top and toe—(A) convex elliptical, (B) straight, and (C) concave elliptical

13. Examples of factors of safety for (A) ambient (unsaturated) and (B) saturated elliptical (convex and concave) banks from detailed analyses (REAME computer program and actual cross sections) compared to those from the indirect method (straight-bank tables using unweighted and vertically weighted average bank angles) over a range of bank angles

14. Factors of safety against rotational failure for 30 randomly selected bank sections under ambient (unsaturated) conditions comparing those determined from the indirect method, using the straight-bank tables with (A) unweighted and (B) vertically weighted average bank angles as inputs, to those from detailed analysis, using the REAME computer program with actual surveyed bank section points as inputs

15. Factors of safety against rotational failure for 30 randomly selected bank sections under saturated conditions comparing those determined from the indirect method, using the straight-bank tables with (A)unweighted and (B) vertically weighted average bank angles as inputs, to those from detailed analysis, using the REAME computer program with actual surveyed bank section points as inputs

16. Soil cohesion relative to borehole depth for sites with more than one borehole shear test (BST) considered useable

TABLES

1. Study sites and types of soil data collected for analysis of channel-bank stability in eastern Nebraska, 1995 to 1999

2. Channel-geometry data collected at study sites in eastern Nebraska, 1995 to 1999

3. Soil-property data from samples collected at study sites in eastern Nebraska, 1995 to 1999

4. Results of Culmann, ARS, and indirect methods of bank-stability analysis7

5. Number and percent of bank sections for each method of analysis by stability category and soil group

6. Factors of safety from REAME analysis of idealized straight banks

CONVERSION FACTORS AND VERTICAL DATUM

CONVERSION FACTORS AND VERTICAL DATUM
Multiply By To obtain
centimeter (cm) 0.394 inch (in)
meter (m) 3.28 foot (ft)
kilometer (km) 0.622 mile (mi)
square meter (m2) 10.8 square foot (ft2)
square kilometer (km2) 0.386 square mile (mi2)
cubic meter (m3) 35.3 cubic foot (ft3)
centimeter per hour (cm/hr) 0.3937 inch per hour (in/hr)
meter per year (m/yr) 3.28 foot per year (ft/yr)
cubic meter per second (m3/s) 5.3 cubic foot per second (ft3/s)
gram (g) 0.03527 ounce avoirdupois (oz avdp)
kilopascal (kPa) 0.145 pound per square inch (lb/in2)
kilonewton per meter (kN/m) by 68.6 pound per foot
kilonewton per cubic meter (kN/m3) 6.37 pound per cubic foot (lb/ft3)

Elevation, as used in this report, refers to distance above the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29).


This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

View the full report in PDF 2.77 MB)

CD to report:

       README.txt (9KB)

       ambient_REAME.txt (18KB)

       saturated_REAME.txt (14KB)

       interpolation_REAME.xls requires Microsoft Excel 2000 or higher(1MB)

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For more information about USGS activities in Nebraska contact:

District Chief

U.S. Geological Survey

Water Resources Discipline

406 Federal Building

100 Centennial Mall North

Lincoln, Nebraska 68508

Telephone: (402) 437-5082

Fax: (402) 437-5139


or access the USGS Water Resources of Nebraska home page at:  http://ne.water.usgs.gov/.


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Last modified: Friday, September 16 2005, 04:23:27 PM
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