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ISWS Research Report 117PDF


Title:Waves Generated by Recreational Traffic on the Upper Mississippi River System
Author(s):Bhowmik, Nani G.; Soong, Ta-Wei; Reichelt, Walter F.; Seddik, Nona M.L.
Subject(s):Recreational traffic
Upper Mississippi river system
Waves generated
Abstract:Movement of recreational boats in a waterway such as the Upper Mississippi River System (UMRS) generates waves that can impact the river biota and the stability of the shorelines. This report presents the results of a research project undertaken to determine the characteristics of waves generated by recreational craft within the UMRS. To meet the goals of the project, 246 controlled runs were made with 12 different boats at two sites, one on the Illinois River and the other on the Mississippi River. Data from the controlled runs indicated that recreational boats can generate from 4 to 40 waves per event, with a mean of about 10 to 20 waves. These waves can last from 6 to 40 seconds or more. Average wave heights for these controlled events varied from 0.01 to 0.25 meter, with a median of about 0.06 to 0.12 meter. The maximum wave height was as much as 0.6 meter. The wave data from the controlled runs were used to develop a regression equation for estimating maximum wave heights on the basis of the speed, draft, and length of the boats, and their distance from the measuring point. This relationship is now recommended for use in determining wave heights generated by recreational boats. Data from uncontrolled boating events on the Mississippi River indicated that as many as 704 boats passed a highly used area of the UMRS in a single day on a busy weekend. Up to 120 boats passed the site in a single hour. Sustained movement of recreational boats can generate essentially continuous waves, giving the appearance of random waves at or near the shoreline. During the day of heaviest boating activity at the Mississippi River site, the maximum wave height measured was 0.52 meter, and the average for the whole day was 0.065 meter. Analyses were also performed by partitioning the wave heights on an hourly basis. These analyses indicated that significant wave height can reach a magnitude of 0.4 meter or higher, and maximum wave height can reach 0.5 meter or higher. Calculations were also performed to show that for waves of 0.4 meter in height to develop at the Mississippi River site from wind alone, the wind would have to be blowing at a speed of about 26 meters per second (58 mph) across the measuring point. Wave energies were computed by partitioning the waves into five-minute intervals. These analyses showed that the shorelines are subjected to wave activity of fairly high intensity. No analyses were performed to determine the bank erosion potential or sediment resuspension characteristics of the waves generated by recreational boats. However, existing mathematical formulations can be used to analyze the stability of banks composed of noncohesive bank materials. Additional research should be initiated to determine the effects of recreational boats on the stability of cohesive and noncohesive banks, and the way in which wave activity resuspends bed materials.
Issue Date:1991
Series/Report:ISWS RR-117
Genre:Technical Report
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-04-24

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