Sediment infilling and geomorphological change of a mud-capped Raccoon Island dredge pit near Ship Shoal of Louisiana shelf

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To restore degraded barrier shorelines of the Mississippi River Delta of coastal Louisiana, sand is dredged from high-quality borrow areas on the adjacent continental shelf. This dredging process generally creates a topographic low that facilitates the rapid capture of sediments. Our understanding of sedimentary processes and influences on seabed morphologic evolution is still limited. In this study, Raccoon Island dredge pit in a paleo-river channel on the Louisiana shelf was studied via multiple bathymetric surveys. Physical parameters include pit geometry and topographic change from post-dredging, and infilling sediment sources were analyzed. Raccoon Island pit was 100% filled up less than six years after dredging. The average infilling rate in the Raccoon Island pit was 1.10 m/year from 2013 to 2018. During the surveying period, the pit wall slope decreased by 6.8° within two years. The sediment infilling process in the Raccoon Island pit was likely under the combined influence of topography, wind-driven currents, storm waves, and the dynamic Atchafalaya River dispersal system. The Atchafalaya River reached high discharge in 2016, which likely contributed to a surprisingly high sediment infilling rate at Raccoon Island pit between 2015 and 2018. Raccoon Island pit is in a mixed texture environment in which the sandy pit was fully filled with mud. Mud is useful for marsh restoration but is not considered a quality resource for barrier island or beach restoration. Thus, the Raccoon Island pit is not regarded as a renewable resource for future barrier island restoration.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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