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Model study of the hydraulics related to fish passage through embedded culverts



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Corrugated steel pipe (CSP) culverts are widely used as an economical alternative for conveying streams and small rivers through road embankments. While passage of the design flow is generally the primary goal for culvert design, consideration must also be given to maintaining connectivity within the aquatic environment for fish and other aquatic organisms. In Canada, the design criteria for fish passage through culverts are generally specified in terms of a maximum mean flow velocity corresponding to the weakest swimming fish expected to be found at a specific location. Studies have shown, however, that the velocity distribution within a CSP culvert may provide sufficient areas of lower velocity flow near the culvert boundary to allow for fish passage, even when the mean flow velocity may exceed a fish’s swimming ability. Improved knowledge of the hydraulic conditions within CSP culverts, combined with research into fish swimming capabilities and preferences, may make it possible to better tailor culvert designs for fish passage while at the same time decreasing construction costs. To meet the requirements of regulators, various measures may be taken to reduce culvert flow velocities. Embedding, or setting the invert of a culvert below the normal stream bed elevation, is a simple and inexpensive method of increasing the flow area in a culvert flowing partially full, thereby decreasing flow velocity. Fish traversing through an embedded culvert benefit not only in terms of lower mean flow velocities, but also even lower flow velocities in the near boundary region. In the province of Saskatchewan culvert embedment is regularly used as a means to improve fish passage conditions. In this study, a laboratory scale model was used to study the velocity distribution within a non-embedded and embedded CSP culvert. An acoustic Doppler velocimeter was used to measure point velocities throughout the flow cross section at several longitudinal locations along the culvert. The hydraulic conditions were varied by changing the discharge, culvert slope and depth of embedment. The point velocity data were analyzed to determine patterns of velocity and turbulence intensity at each cross section, as well as along the length of the culvert. The results from the embedded culvert tests were compared with the results from the equivalent non-embedded tests, so that initial conclusions could be made regarding the use of embedment to improve conditions for fish passage. Analysis of the cross section velocity distributions showed that, even the non-embedded culvert had a significant portion of the flow area with flow velocity less than the mean velocity. The results from the embedded tests confirmed that embedding the culvert reduced the flow velocity throughout each cross section, although the effect was most significant for the cross sections located greater than one culvert diameter downstream from the inlet. This variation in effectiveness of embedment at reducing flow velocities is attributed to the length of the M1 backwater profile relative to the culvert length, and thus the differential increase in flow depth that occurred at each measurement location along the culvert. For both the non-embedded and embedded culvert the peak point magnitudes of turbulence intensity were found to be located near the culvert inlet where the flow was contracting. In terms of the cross section average turbulence intensity, in the non-embedded culvert turbulence increased with distance downstream from the inlet and was highest at the cross sections located near the culvert outlet. Embedding the culvert was found to either have no impact, or to slightly increase, the cross section average turbulence intensity near the inlet. Again, a result that is attributed to the tapering out of the M1 backwater profile at locations near the inlet under the flow conditions tested. However, beyond eight culvert diameters downstream from the inlet, embedment did result in lower cross section average turbulence intensity when compared to the non-embedded culvert. The measured velocity profiles for the non-embedded tests were found to compare well to the theoretical log-law velocity distribution using a ks value of between 0.012 m and 0.022 m, or approximately one to two times the corrugation amplitude, when the datum for analysis was considered to be located at the crest of the pipe corrugation. The cross section velocity distributions for the non-embedded tests compared very well to the model proposed by Ead et al. (2000). Based on this assessment, it appears that the Ead et al. model is potentially suitable for use in predicting the amount of the cross sectional area in a non-embedded culvert with flow velocity less than the design target for culvert fish passage design purposes. Overall, the results of the study confirm that, embedding a CSP culvert may be an effective way to improve fish passage conditions in terms of both flow velocity and turbulence intensity.



turbulence intensity, velocity distribution, embedded culvert, culvert fishways



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Civil and Geological Engineering


Civil and Geological Engineering


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