Erosion and Transport Potential of Sediment Obstructing the Flow of the Rio Grande into the Gulf of Mexico

D. Michael Chapin, Jr., Rich Jepsen, Jesse D. Roberts and Randy Buhalts

Sandia National Laboratories

4100 National Parks Highway

Carlsbad, NM 88220


The mouth of the Rio Grande has become silted up, obstructing its flow into the Gulf of Mexico. This is problematic in that it has created extensive flooding. The purpose of this study was to determine the erosion and transport potential of the sediments obstructing the flow of the Rio Grande by employing a unique Mobile High Shear Stress flume developed by Sandia’s Carlsbad Programs Group for the US Army Corps of Engineers. The flume measures in-situ sediment erosion properties at shear stresses ranging form normal flow to flood conditions for a variable depth sediment core. The flume is in a self-contained trailer that can be placed on site in the field. Erosion rates and sediment grain size distributions were determined from sediment samples collected in and around the obstruction and were subsequently used to characterize the erosion potential of the sediments under investigation.