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Category: Research
  • Stability Analysis of Old River Low Sill Structure

    Abstract: An updated stability analysis was performed on the Old River Low Sill Structure due to a change in the operating conditions from historic river sedimentation. Sedimentation of the Mississippi River channel since the 1973 spring flood has caused higher river stages at lower discharges. Numerical methods used included nonlinear analysis of pile group stability, seepage analyses, and limit equilibrium methods. The structure’s foundation was compromised during the 1973 flood, and emergency repairs were conducted to prevent scouring and undermining of the foundation by the flood scour. Rehabilitation included the reconstruction of a failed wing wall on the left abutment, rock and riprap fill in the forebay channel, and emergency grouting to fill the scour hole beneath the structure. An operating restriction was emplaced to limit the differential head across the structure due to flood damage. Taking these conditions into account, results from an updated analysis showed that full headwater uplift caused increased tension in the piles, while the increased body load caused increased compressive loads in the piles. Review of piezometric monitoring and the seepage analyses showed that full headwater uplift is unlikely, indicating the foundation grouting adequately sealed the scour hole beneath the structure. Analysis results exhibited lower magnitude compression and tension loads in the piles with design load cases compared to previous analyses. Recommendations from these analyses indicate that increased monitoring and additional investigation may support increasing the differential head limitation.
  • Properties and Detectability of Rogue Synthetic Biology (SynBio) Products in Complex Matrices

    Abstract: Synthetic biology (SynBio) aims to rationally engineer or modify traits of an organism or integrate the behaviors of multiple organisms into a singular functional organism through advanced genetic engineering techniques. One objective of this research was to determine the environmental persistence of engineered DNA in the environment. To accomplish this goal, the environmental persistence of legacy engineered DNA building blocks were targeted that laid the foundation for SynBio product development and application giving rise to “post-use products.” These building blocks include genetic constructs such as cloning and expression vectors, promoter/terminator elements, selectable markers, reporter genes, and multi-cloning sites. Shotgun sequencing of total DNA from water samples of pristine sites was performed and resultant sequence data mined for frequency of legacy recombinant DNA signatures. Another objective was to understand the fate of a standardized contemporary synthetic genetic construct (SC) in the context of various chassis systems/genetic configurations representing different degrees of “genetic bioavailability” to the environmental landscape. These studies were carried out using microcosms representing different environmental matrices (soils, waters, wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) liquor) and employed a novel genetic reporter system based on volatile organic compounds (VOC) detection to assess proliferation and persistence of the SC in the matrix over time.
  • Application of Clean Dredged Material to Facilitate Contaminated Sediment Source Control

    Abstract: Navigation channels, turning basins, and other US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)–managed navigation infrastructure often serve as repositories for contaminated sediment from off-site sources. As much as 10% of the material that USACE dredges on an annual basis is contaminated such that it requires additional and more costly management (for example, rehandling and placement in managed confined disposal facilities). Presence of contaminated sediments constrain potential management options resulting in additional costs and opportunity loss from the inability to beneficially use the material. One potential solution is applying clean dredged material to stabilize and isolate contaminated sediment sources, preventing further transport and introduction to USACE-managed infrastructure. This document summarizes a comprehensive literature review of laboratory and field case studies relevant to using clean dredged material to isolate or stabilize contaminated sediments, focusing on the physical, chemical, and biological parameters critical to establishing its feasibility and long-term effectiveness. Potentially effective engineering control measures were also reviewed where erosion and site hydrodynamics are facilitating the transport of contaminated sediments to USACE-maintained navigation infrastructure. This literature review documents and summarizes those factors considered in establishing feasibility and long-term effectiveness of the approach as well as the applicable engineering tools employed and constraints encountered.
  • Evaluation of 11 Buildings in the Fort McCoy Cantonment

    Abstract: The US Congress codified the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), the nation’s most effective cultural resources legislation to date, mostly through establishing the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The NHPA requires federal agencies to address their cultural re-sources, which are defined as any prehistoric or historic district, site, building, structure, or object. Section 110 of the NHPA requires federal agencies to inventory and evaluate their cultural resources, and Section 106 requires them to determine the effect of federal undertakings on those potentially eligible for the NRHP. Fort McCoy is in west-central Wisconsin, entirely within Monroe County. It was first established as the Sparta Maneuver Tract in 1909. The post was renamed Camp McCoy in 1926. Since 1974, it has been known as Fort McCoy. This report provides historic context and determinations of eligibility for buildings in the cantonment constructed between 1946 and 1975 and concludes that none are eligible for the NRHP. In consultation with the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Officer (WISHPO), this work fulfills Section 110 requirements for these buildings.
  • Ground-penetrating Radar Studies of Permafrost, Periglacial, and Near-surface

    Abstract: Installations built on ice, permafrost, or seasonal frozen ground require careful design to avoid melting issues. Therefore, efforts to rebuild McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to improve operational efficiency and consolidate energy resources require knowledge of near-surface geology. Both 200 and 400 MHz ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data were collected in McMurdo during January, October, and November of 2015 to detect the active layer, permafrost, excess ice, fill thickness, solid bedrock depth, and buried utilities or construction and waste debris. Our goal was to ultimately improve surficial geology knowledge from a geotechnical perspective. Radar penetration ranged between approximately 3 and 10 m depth for the 400 and 200 MHz antennas, respectively. Both antennas successfully detect buried utilities and near-surface stratified material to ~0.5–3.0 m whereas 200 MHz profiles were more useful for mapping deeper stratified and un-stratified fill over bedrock. Artificially generated excess ice which appears to have been created from runoff, water pooling and refreezing, aspect shading from buildings, and snowpack buried under fill, are prevalent. Results show that McMurdo Station has a complex myriad of ice-rich fill, scoria, fractured volcanic bedrock, permafrost, excess ice, and buried anthropogenically generated debris, each of which must be considered during future construction.
  • Extracting Sintered Snow Properties from MicroCT Imagery to Initialize a Discrete Element Method Model

    Abstract: Modeling snow’s mechanical behavior is important for many cold regions engineering problems. Because snow’s microstructure plays a significant role in its mechanical response, it is imperative to initialize models with accurate bond characteristics and realistic snow-grain geometries to precisely capture the microstructure interactions. Previous studies have processed microcomputed tomography scans of snow samples with a watershed method to extract grain geometries. This approach relies on identification of seed points to segment each grain. Our new methodology, called the “moving window method,” does not require prior knowledge of the snow-grain-size distribution to identify seed points. We use the interconnectivity of the segmented grains to identify bond characteristics. We compare the resultant grain-size and bond-size distributions to the known grain sizes of the laboratory-made snow samples. The grain-size distributions from the moving window method closely match the known grain sizes, while both results from the traditional method produce grains that are too large. We propose that the bond net-work identified using the traditional method underestimates the number of bonds and overestimates bond radii. Our method allows us to segment realistic snow grains and their associated bonds, without prior knowledge of the samples, from which we can initialize numerical models of the snow.
  • Short-range Near-surface Seismic Ensemble Predictions and Uncertainty Quantification for Layered Medium

    Abstract: To make a prediction for seismic signal propagation, one needs to specify physical properties and subsurface ground structure of the site. This information is frequently unknown or estimated with significant uncertainty. This paper describes a methodology for probabilistic seismic ensemble prediction for vertically stratified soils and short ranges with no in situ site characterization. Instead of specifying viscoelastic site properties, the methodology operates with probability distribution functions of these properties taking into account analytical and empirical relationships among viscoelastic variables. This yields ensemble realizations of signal arrivals at specified locations where statistical properties of the signals can be estimated. Such ensemble predictions can be useful for preliminary site characterization, for military applications, and risk analysis for remote or inaccessible locations for which no data can be acquired. Comparison with experiments revealed that measured signals are not always within the predicted ranges of variability. Variance-based global sensitivity analysis has shown that the most significant parameters for signal amplitude predictions in the developed stochastic model are the uncertainty in the shear quality factor and the Poisson ratio above the water table depth.
  • Brine, Englacial Structure, and Basal Properties near the Terminus of McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica

    Abstract: We collected ∼1300 km of ground-penetrating radar profiles over McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica, using frequencies between 40 and 400 MHz to determine extent, continuity and depth to the brine. We also used profiles to determine meteoric ice thickness and locate englacial features, which may suggest ice shelf instability. The brine extends 9–13 km inland from the ice shelf terminus and covers the entire region between Ross, White and Black Islands. Jump unconformities and basal fractures exist in the brine and ice shelf, respectively, suggesting prior fracturing and re-suturing. One 100 MHz profile, the most distal from the ice shelf edge while still being situated over the brine, simultaneously imaged the brine and bottom of meteoric ice. This suggests a negative brine salinity gradient moving away from the terminus. The meteoric ice bottom was also imaged in a few select locations through blue ice in the ablation zone near Black Island. We suggest that brine, sediment-rich ice and poor antenna coupling on rough ice attenuates the signal in this area. When combined with other recent mass-balance and structural glaciology studies of MIS, our results could contribute to one of the most high-resolution physical models of an ice shelf in Antarctica.
  • Coastal Resilience: Benefits of Wrack and Dune Systems and Current Management Practices

    Purpose: The purpose of this US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) technical note (TN) is to review both the ecological and geomorphological impacts of wrack on dune systems and provide an overview of current beach dune and wrack management practices. As part of the US Army Corps Regional Sediment Management (RSM) Program, this TN also introduces a case study investigating wrack management solutions for dune stabilization.
  • Method to Evaluate Vessel Wake Forces on Wetland Scarps

    Purpose: This Coastal and Hydraulics engineering technical note (CHETN) presents a methodology to compute normal forces on wetland perimeters with vertically scarped edges. The approach uses an empirical algorithm that predicts the normal force given the offshore vessel wake height, period, and water depth at a given point. Wave impact forces are measured using load cells, which have not been applied previously to marsh settings. Load cell and vessel wake measurements from two field sites are combined to generate an empirical transfer function relating forces to incoming vessel wake characteristics.