Sediment Plume


MMS Dredger Sediment Plume Modeling

The U.S. Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service is responsible for managing the sand resources on the U.S. outer continental shelf. One of the primary environmental concerns is the impact of suspended sediment and subsequent bed deposition generated by offshore dredging operations. This project involved the development of a comprehensive numerical tool, called the MMS Dredge Plume Model that is capable of simulating the fate of the sediment plumes generated by Trailing Suction Hopper Dredgers (TSHD).

The MMS Dredge Plume Model consists of two models that simulate two different phases in the dredging operation

  • Dredger Process Model - simulates "on-board" operations of various TSHD, and predicts the release of overflow and unwanted sediment sizes back into the water body.

  • Plume Model - simulates the dynamic descent of the overflow released from the Process Model as well as the fate of the passive plume, which is driven by ambient currents.

Baird was responsible for the development of a graphical user interface to facilitate the use of the models and the integration of a 3D visualization tool for interpretation of model results. A sensitivity analysis was performed and the models were validated against available field data from actual dredging processes.

The ultimate goal of the project was the development of a numerical tool for assessing the potential sedimentation footprint of future dredging programs at the sand borrow areas on the U.S. continental shelf.

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