New river modeling facility will allow greater research opportunities - News

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New river modeling facility will allow greater research opportunities

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Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 10:25 pm

Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, together with the University, will construct a new scale model of the lower Mississippi River that will be four times larger in scale and size than the University’s existing model on River Road.

The new model will be a massive, indoor, scale replica of the Mississippi River from Donaldsonville to the river delta, complete with sediment and running water, which will allow researchers and engineers with CPRA and the University to study the river’s dynamics.

The new model will be the largest moving-bed, hydraulic physical model in the country, said Rudy Simoneaux, the CPRA’s project engineer.

“The reason for changing is because the other model has reached the end of its useful life,” Simoneaux said.

Physical models have a limited shelf life because the running water on them causes leaks and rotting, Simoneaux said.

The Vincent A. Forte River and Coastal Hydraulics Lab on River Road currently houses the 8-year-old small-scale physical model, or SSPM, of the lower Mississippi River.

The new model, which Simoneaux said is currently being referred to as the expanded small-scale physical model, or ESSPM, will be built using a state-of-the-art 3-D router to construct more than 200 5-by-10 foot panels, compared to the current model’s 24 4-by-8 foot panels.

The scale of the new model will extend from Donaldsonville to the Gulf of Mexico, compared to the SSPM, which shows a model of the river extending from near Belle Chasse to the Gulf, Simoneaux said.

Simoneaux said the future of the larger model has many uses, like determining the best places to put several large diversions in the river, which allow river water to freshen the marshes and sediment to build up the wetlands to prevent erosion.

Clint Willson, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the University’s Vincent A. Forte River and Costal Hydraulics Lab, along with graduate students, conducts research using the current model and helps operate it.

“We would like to locate and design a diversion system that more effectively captures sediment. The Mississippi River is a wonderful natural resource, but currently we are not fully utilizing these resources,” Willson said in an article on the University’s Live Gold website.

“They will have water running through the model with synthetic sediments and dyes so that they can study the river as it changes,” said Ken Courtade, assistant director of Capital Planning and Projects.

A moving beam with cameras will be suspended over the new model along with a second story viewing area, allowing researchers to view the model from above, Courtade said.

“It will be a highlight for visitors from all over the country and the world to see what we are doing in Louisiana,” Simoneaux said.

The old model will be removed from the current lab, and a new building will be constructed enclosing the current lab building, Courtade said.

The existing building will become a center where smaller physical models can be built for costal and river engineers to study, Simoneaux said.

The new building will include classrooms and conference rooms as well as a state-of-the-art exhibit area, Simoneaux said.

“It will be a museum-type setting with educational exhibits for classes to visit by scheduling an appointment, but will not be open to the public,” Simoneaux said.

The new building and model will be funded and constructed entirely by CPRA through a state grant from the federal government. The University will manage the facility and fund the staff once construction is complete.

Construction is set to begin during the summer of 2013, with the building expected to be completed by spring or summer of 2014.

Simoneaux said the model, expected to be complete by the end of 2014, will take several months to complete once the building is constructed.

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