Morphological evolution of a mud-capped dredge pit on the Louisiana shelf: Nonlinear infilling and continuing consolidation

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© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Buried sandy paleo-river channels on the continental shelf can be accessed through dredging for the restoration of beaches and barrier islands which are under the threat of land loss and rising sea levels. However, our knowledge on post-dredging evolution of paleo-river channels is still very limited. In this study we focus on infilling rate, sediment acoustic characteristics, slope change and surficial morphology, all of which have implications for the management of seafloor oil and gas infrastructure. Bathymetric data collected during nine bathymetric surveys over 13 years were used to study the long-term changes of the Peveto Channel dredge pit, which is ~5 km offshore of Holly Beach in western Louisiana, USA. This pit was constructed in 2003 and was completely infilled in or before 2016. Initial pit infilling rates began at 214 cm/year from 2003 to 2004 and then rapidly decreased to an average rate of only 33 cm/year from 2006 to 2016. This corresponds volumetrically to 418,753 and 80,816 m3/year for the same intervals. Pit wall margins displayed small lateral migration, moving <30 m outwards over 13 years, posing minimal threat to adjacent infrastructure. After complete infilling, numerous small mounds were found on 2016 bathymetry, morphologically resembling ‘mud volcanoes’ that have been reported on deltas, continental shelves and slopes around the world. Newly deposited sediment on seafloor surface had a reflectivity lower than the ambient seafloor environment. Massive amounts of sediments were transported to the pit despite no proximity to direct riverine inputs, making the pit act as an efficient sediment trap. Inferred depth-integrated lateral sediment transport rates were 9.91–12.73 g/m/s. Despite the fact that Peveto Channel pit was filled up, consolidation continues and the filled sediment surface hasn't reach a condition in equilibrium with ambient seafloor yet. Our results highlight the continuing dewatering and long consolidation processes at the pit site even after a complete infilling.

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