After a year of construction, getting every detail just right, testing has begun on a 1:20 scaled physical hydraulic model for the Houma Navigation Channel model. This model study will be used to evaluate dynamic forces on a lock and floodgate complex proposed for the navigation channel located between Houma, Louisiana, and the Gulf of Mexico. This project intends to curb saltwater intrusion, aiding in the restoration of an important coastal ecosystem while maintaining navigation on the canal.

By constructing a lock at the recently commissioned Bubba Dove Floodgate, the gate can remain closed for extended periods of time to limit salt water from making its way into and deteriorating marshes. At the same time, the new design will maintain safe navigation on the Houma Canal, especially during times of flood tide and south winds. Alden project managers and engineers are testing a scaled physical modeled of the lock complex, capturing all of the relevant flow patterns and forces under various operating conditions.

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Dan Gessler, Vice President, Alden Research Laboratory, says, “The Houma model is one of the most complex hydraulic models I have ever seen or read about because of the large number of variables we are testing in a single model.  The reaction of every guest that walks in the building is WOW.  And as we explain what all is being tested and why, even among engineers there is some disbelief that this is possible.”

He continues, “The models only last a short time, but the engineering structures we help design and test will last for generations.”

The 1:20 scaled model is approximately 150 feet long, 70 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Water in the model will run up to approximately 3 feet deep. These dimensions correspond to the Bubba Dove Floodgate structure and proposed lock that is approximately 2500 feet by 1000 feet, with water depths of up to 60ft.  The model will test a flow rate of up to approximately 54,000 cfs (30 cfs in the model model) during a storm surge in the upstream direction, and up to 14,000 cfs (8 cfs in the model model) in reverse for post surge conditions.

Working with the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District, CB&I and TetraTech are designing and constructing the lock. By modeling the proposed design, all relevant flow patterns and forces can be captured so that required improvements can be quickly developed, implemented and tested prior to construction.