Sediment dynamics of an impounded river: Yegua Creek, Texas
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Dams have altered flow distributions in rivers everywhere, causing a host of changes in channel morphology and sediment dynamics. Although major changes in flow regime have occurred along Yegua Creek, Texas, since the closure of Somerville Dam in 1967, the issue of sediment transport has not been studied in detail. The extent to which sediment is moving through the system remains unclear. This study addresses the extent to which sediment is moving through and downstream of the dam. Analysis of sediment samples collected at 23 sites in the Yegua Creek channel system showed that coarse sand to silt-sized materials dominate the creek upstream of the dam, whereas finer silt and clay sediments characterize the downstream portions. Calculation of the trapping efficiency of the dam indicates that approximately 99.8% of materials from the upper watershed are trapped behind Somerville Dam. Investigations of sediment mobility further suggest that present flows are capable of mobilizing sediments downstream of the dam. Although a de-coupling between the upper and lower portions of the Yegua Creek watershed has likely occurred due to the high rate of sediment trapping, new sediment sources that include tributaries and alluvial storage likely play a larger role in providing materials for sediment transport downstream. Despite a reuction in peak flows, the channel morphology of Yegua Creek has apparently adjusted over the four decades since construction of Somerville Dam to achieve a new equilibrium characterized by sediment movement. These results are corroborated by analysis of aerial photographs. These findings augment our understanding of the many facets of the response of fluvial systems to the disturbance posed by dam construction. Because Yegua Creek is a major tributary to the Brazos River draining to the Texas coast, increased understanding of sediment dynamics within Yegua Creek provides critical insights into the efficacy of sediment delivery in a regional context, and ultimately to the Texas coastline. The findings of this study also provide useful information for managing stream ecosystems affected by impoundments.
Martinez, Adriana Elizabeth (2008). Sediment dynamics of an impounded river: Yegua Creek, Texas. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from