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designing for change

the missouri river

introduction the missouri river: history and characteristics shifting paradigms: the next missouri river fluvial geomorpology + design sustainable energy habitat restoration designing for changing river conditions master plan design elements programming conclusion appendices resources

introduction Rivers have sustained humans, flora and fauna for thousands of years and many consider America’s river system to be the life blood of our nation. However, many also feel that the river must be contained and modified to allow for human civilization and flood protection. We live in a society that uses the river for economic gain, transporation, energy and recreation. Because of this, many of our river systems have been damaged ecologically. As we shift paradigms to a sustainability minded society, river systems and their health should be of major concern. However, we must mesh existing development with healthly rivers. This project attempts to answer how sustainable river design and existing human development can function together across scales. One of America’s most endangered river systems is the Missouri River. This project is based on the Missouri River at Sioux City, IA. The Missouri River has changed over the past 70 years. A once vibrant, wild river has been dammed to accommodate human settlement. With this damming, there were hopes of taming the naturally unpredictable Missouri River. However, negative effects of damming and channelizing the Missouri River have started to effect people, landform, hydrology, flora and fauna in the Missouri River basin. This project attempts to bring a 10 mile stretch of the river to a nonchannelized state and intersect that with human development and interest.

missouri river: history and characteristics History In 1803, the United States acquired the Missouri River by signing the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Before the purchase, the Missouri River basin was largely occupied by Indians, but Spanish and French explorers proclaimed the land as their own in the late 1600’s, which they then sold to the United States. After the Louisiana Purchase was signed, in 1804, the land was surveyed and explored by two very well known individuals by the names of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Currently, historical places on the river pay homage to Lewis and Clark’s discoveries and journey.



After Lewis and Clark’s journey, development of the river began. The US decided it needed to respond to specific needs of the river’s new inhabitants. The river was seen as a way to supply water for people, and to irrigate peoples’ crops. The river was also used for ship navigation, usually extremely unsuccessfully due to the ever changing sand bar formations and depth. Mining also became a way for people to utilize resources near or on the river.

In 1927, the “308 reports” were recorded showing the Army Corps of Engineers examinations of the feasibility of using the Missouri River for flood control, navigation, irrigation and power. This precluded the Flood Control Act of 1944, which approved plans to develop a series of dams and levee systems to integrate flood control, navigation, irrigation and power systems. This Act was proposed by two men by the names of Lewis A. Pick and William Glenn Sloan. This plan was known as the Pick-Sloan Plan. Because of this plan, hundreds of Native American families were displaced from the river and thousands of acres of land were overtaken which were owned by the Native Americans. The first shift of power from the Federal government to state and local authorities came in the form of the 1958 Water Supply Act, which allowed states to have primary responsibility over water supplies from their respective reservoirs. Today, upper Missouri River basin states battle lower Missouri River basin states for water levels. Lower states need the water for barge navigation, and upper states need the water for recreational and irrigational purposes.

In 1884, US congress created the Missouri River Commission to allow for easier water navigation. This included “improving” the river channel Positive moves towards a healthy river started with The Fish and Wildlife for boats. This was a large move in the direction of development and Coordination Act of 1958, which was set in place to give fish and wildlife equal habitat consideration when presenting future river projects. This channelization of the Missouri River. act spurred on a series of other environmentally sound acts, including In 1900, Missouri River stream flow depletions increased to around the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act, the 1972 Clean Water Act, 3 million acre feet per year due to channelization techniques. A few and the 1973 Endangered Species Act. From 1973 - 1991, congress years later, The Reclamation Act of 1902 began to authorize irrigation designated 87 miles of the Missouri River from above Gavin’s Point financed by the Federal government in an attempt to foster settlement Dam to Ponca State Park which as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers on undeveloped lands in the western United States, which included the Act. In 1986, the Water Resources Development Act was adopted. This gave the Secretary of the Army jurisdiction over fish and wildlife Missouri River basin. mitigation projects. (, 2011, Lambrecht, 2005, Army The Rivers and Harbors act of 1912 introduced the development of a 6 Corps of Engineers, 2006, State of South Dakota, State of Nebraska) foot boat navigational channel, which was followed by a series of acts by the Federal government to begin to channelize the Missouri River.



A. Construction of Gavin’s Point Dam B. Spring of 2011 Flood, Sioux City, IA C. Native Americans on the Missouri River D. Steamboat snagged on the Missouri River

missouri river: history and characteristics

The Missouri River and its dams

Gavin’s Point Dam

missouri river: history and characteristics Characteristics The Missouri River starts in the western Montana Rockies at Hell Roaring Creek, where it collects snow runoff, and ends in Kansas City, Missouri where it combines with the Mississippi River. The river runs a total of 2,619 miles. The Missouri River Basin was formed by the movement of glaciers across North America from north of Canada. Waters ran along the front side of the glaciers as they proceeded across the continent. The landform of the Missouri River shows how the earth was pushed and manipulated to create a topographically rich landscape on the western side of the river and a prairielike landscape on the eastern side. The river basin now includes the Rocky Mountains to the west with plains and central lowlands to the east.

picture area

Missouri River, view from Ponca State Park, NE

deepened river channel. The reservoirs continue to fill with sediment, and now over 5% of the six reservoirs’ capacity has been filled with sediment (reservoirs built in 1950’s). Much of the sediment has accumulated in the delta area and tributaries that feed into respective reservoirs. (Johnson, 2002, Lambrecht, 2005, Army Corps of Engineers, 2006) The basin climate is produced by three main air patterns. These patterns include the gulf of Mexico, which contributes mainly in the warm months, and pacific ocean and northern polar regions, which affect the basin in the cold months.

The precipitation varies from year to year, but averages 8-10 inches per year. The winter brings a wintery mix of snow and rain, contributing 12-48 inches Prior to human settlement and development, the Missouri River was a per year. Wind in the basin is usually localized and doesn’t exceed 45 mph. vibrant, slowly meandering river. The Missouri River would create braided Additionally, after studying over 130 storms, the Army Corps has shown that channels, new river bends, and sometimes Oxbow Lakes as a result of the basin doesn’t have massive storm potential. sedimentaion of a river bend. The Missouri River would change its course freely and often, a sign of a non-channelized river. Features of a healthy Flooding in the basin has been mitigated significantly since the inception of the Missouri River include side channels, islands, sandbars, chutes, among 1944 Flood Control Act, but if snow melt and precipitation are heightened in a layers of silt, sand and natural debris. The Missouri River would flood given year, there is a higher potential. If the river is going to flood, it will be between annually, which established and replenished its floodplain ecosystem, much March and July, except in 1923, when there was a large September rainstorm. like a forest fire introduces new saplings. From month to month, the river stream flow varies based on the Army Corps’ Geologically, the Missouri River possesses many unique characteristics. ability to release more or less water from the dams. Summer flows are The upper basin is formed by shale or sand over the top of mixed sandstone naturally higher than winter flows, so the Corps tries to release less water in and shale formations. Throughout the basin, glaciers once dropped large the summer and more in the winter to help “stabilize” water flow. Up until amounts of loess, pliocene-age and older stream deposits, along with sand 2001, the highest outflow from Gavin’s Point Dam was 70,100 cubic feet sheets. Because of this geological makeup and the river’s ability to erode per second. In the spring of 2011, the outflow form Gavin’s Point Dam was thousands of acres of riverbanks, mountains, and prairie, the Missouri River 160,700 cubic feet per second. This was largely due to the rainfall in May is affectionately known as “The Big Muddy”. The river carries the sand and 2011, which was measured as being as much as a typical year’s worth. silt downstream. When the river recedes from spring flood, the sand and silt that it was carrying remains, and forms sandbars and other sediment The river basin is used for a variety of things, including agriculture, recreation, landforms. Currently, with the damming of the Missouri River, much of the urban developmental interests, wildlife and fish, and transportation. Almost all sediment is settled out in the dam reservoirs. Without the natural sediment, of the land use is for agriculture, with over half this used for animal grazing. the Missouri River water cuts deeper and deeper into the bottom of the Woodland areas comprise 9% of the basin and water bodies, streams, ponds, river, which creates environmental havoc for surrounding wetlands and water and reservoirs comprise 1.2% of the river basin, but are the most important part from an ecological and economic standpoint. (Lambrecht, 2005, Army bodies, which suffer from a drop in the water table due to the Corps of Engineers, 2006)

missouri river: history and characteristics

Missouri River south of Sioux City, IA

Missouri River north of Sioux City, IA

missouri river: history and characteristics The Indians and the Pick-Sloan Plan At the dedication of the Pick-Sloan dams in 1962, John F. Kennedy, along with other government officials, stood proud, believing they had finally succeeded in harnessing the Missouri River to meet the needs of flood control, hydropower, irrigation, navigation and water supply. This belief, however, was not shared by the Sioux Indians, who were forced to sign their land away to reach the federal government’s goals for the Missouri’s new river system. The destruction of 200,000 acres of Sioux land soon followed the dedication of the dams, including the uprooting of thousands of families and the digging up of hundreds of sacred gravesites. The Army Corp of Engineers were very focused to succeed in the construction of the six dams. To make sure goals were met, the Indians were told little about the Pick-Sloan plan while it was being signed, even though by law their consent was needed. The Army Corp built the dams, including the Oahe Dam, which destroyed more Indian land than any other single public works project in the United States. It was easy to measure the destruction of Indian farmland, which was essential to the natural food supply of the tribes. It was more difficult to measure the psychological effects the construction had on the Sioux.

From the inception of the dams until today, it has become apparent that the Pick-Sloan plan would never be what it was hoped to be in the 40’s and 50’s. The era of full development of water resources through impoundment and regulation of stream flow has given way, incrementally, to a better management of water resources that takes into account environmental impacts, ecosystem restoration, protection of historic and cultural resources, and greater recognition of the sovereignty of tribal governments. Author Vine Deloria Jr. also sheds light on the impact the Missouri River has made on the tribe. “There is something very sacred about the Missouri River to the Sioux Indians. Unlike traditions that extend far into the historical mists and are chronologically uncertain, our memories of the lands near the river are immediate and relate primarily to the last half of the nineteenth century.”

“Although the Santees and the Yanktons (Indian Tribes) were agreeable to living in the white man’s way fairly after contract, the families who took allotments along the riverbank retained many of their own ways until the Corps of Engineers confiscated their lands and built enormous As if the Pick Sloan plan didn’t cause enough damage to the Sioux, dams, which flooded both ancestral farms and ranches and memories, the Army Corp reassessed the land needed to build the dams and leaving the tribes materially and spiritually impoverished.” found that they needed more. In 1952, it became apparent that their initial estimation for where Fort Randall dam was to be located (Lawson, 2009) was not correct. So, more Indian land had to be overtaken. To do this, the Corp quickly filed condemnation petitions and obtained declarations to take over Indian owned land. This land maneuvering was accomplished without the signature or consent of any Indian Tribe.

At the signing of the Garrison Dam in 1948. George Gillete, second from left, shows his emotion as Native American land is signed away.

missouri river: history and characteristics Gavin’s Point Dam to Sioux City, IA The Missouri River stretch from Gavin’s Point Dam to Sioux City, IA defines my site’s context. This 60 mile stretch of the river is comprised of three separate reaches. These reaches include the National Recreation River Reach, Kensler’s Bench Reach, and the Navigation Channel Reach.

The river now degrades the channel because much of these backwater areas and chutes are no longer. The wing dikes on the convex side of the river and the levees on the concave side of the river help to create a deeper channel. However, a deeper channel has not helped the barge industry from St. Louis to Sioux City. Over the past 20 years, cargo has dropped from 5 million tons a year to just over 5 The Missouri River National Recreational River Reach is a stretch of thousand tons. (Army Corps of Engineers, 2006, U.S. Department of the river south of Gavin’s Point Dam (RM 811) to Ponca, Nebraska the Interior, 2007) (RM 752). This stretch of the river has been unchannelized since the inception of the dam system. This has allowed the river here to meander and create chutes, backwater marshes, sandbars, and islands. Kensler’s Bend is a stretch of river from Ponca, Nebraska to Sioux City, IA that defines the beginning of the revetment efforts of the Army Corp of Engineers. Here, wing dikes and levees start to channelize the river to initiate and help construct a deeper, narrower channel for the purpose of navigation. The next reach, directly below Kensler’s bend, extends all the way to St. Louis, Missouri. This reach is known as the Navigation Channel Reach and is part of the Missouri River Navigation and Bank Stabilization Project. Contributing to this stretch of the river are three tributaries. These tributaries include the James River, Vermillion River and the Big Sioux River. They all enter the Missouri River from the left bank. The Army Corps of Engineers has shown that the channel in this stretch had flow rates of over 100,000 cubic feet per second prior to the construction of the dam and reservoir system.

shifting paradigms: the next missouri river The Site


The site chosen for this design is in a unique location geographically because it intersects three different states. This site also contains three separate cities. Dakota Dunes, South Dakota is the furthest upstream city on the site, with Sioux City, Iowa and South Sioux City, Nebraska being the furthest downstream cities.


Homestead State Park, South Dakota, is the furthest piece of land upstream on my site, and is comprised of a large area of floodplain. This park has over 2 miles of trail and boasts a large nature reserve along with backwater river habitat.


Across from Homestead State Park and Dakota Dunes, South Dakota is a large amount of privately owned farmland, along with foothills that frame the Missouri River’s floodplains on the western side of the basin.






Current Landform


Vertically Exaggerated 600%

A. McCook Lake, SD B. Dakota Dunes Development, SD C. Farmland, NE D. South Sioux City, NE E. Sioux City, IA F. Homestead State Park, SD G. Missouri River H. Big Sioux River

The Big Sioux River is technically considered a tributary of the Missouri River, the Big Sioux River is almost 420 miles long. The river starts in South Dakota and ends just south of the Dakota Dunes Development. The river is also used to form the boundary between South Dakota and Iowa. (USGS, 2011)



The Big Sioux creates one of the edges of the Dakota Dunes Development. It has flooded multiple times, but had the highest flood levels in 1993 and 2011, when the whole region was flooded. The Big Sioux also receives water in a backwater effect from the Missouri, which further increases flooding along the Big Sioux. (Sioux City Journal, 2011)

shifting paradigms: the next missouri river The Future of the River







In the spring of 2011, the Missouri river endured its most catastrophic flood since the inception of the dams in 1944. In a typical year, water volume through the Gavin’s Point Dam reaches around 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) during its high water months in the spring. In the spring of 2011, the dams were at a 100 cfs + condtion. This condition was never anticipated by the Army Corp. A combination of both the melted snow in the Rocky Mountains and the higher than average May rainfall caused the the Missouri River to swell and inundate communites along the river from Montana to Missouri. Around half a billion dollars in flood damage has occured in Nebraska and Iowa alone. This number continues to increase as flood cleanup efforts continue. The Missouri River is begging to be allowed to swell in to its floodplains and create backwaters, side channels and braided islands like it once did before it was channelized. The Missouri River’s character is that of change. From one year to the next, it incurs a different form, a different depth, and a different speed. Eventually, the river will overtake the revetments set up by the Army Corp of Engineers. The dams will fail and the reservoirs behind them will fill with sediment. The wing dikes will start to collapse and the levees will lose their strength. The Army Corps Pick-Sloan plan is on the verge of expiration, and its only been in commision for 60 years. The next step for the Missouri River involves a plan that can react to a changing environment. Instead of inhibiting the river, the new design must allow the river to be in flux while also protecting existing pertinent development. As Mathias Kondolf from U.C. Berkeley puts it, we need to to use existing farmland that surrounds river systems to allow for flood bounce. If we utilize land that isn’t densely populated, we can minimize the amount of people that would be displaced.

2007 A stretch of the Missouri River, south of Gavin’s Point Dam



Within this proposed design, change will be embraced and celebrated in a multitude of ways. Elements that change sediment patterns and accumulation are strategically placed throughtout the 10 mile stretch of river. Landforms reaching as high as 90 feet will be formed from the earth that is taken out of the farmland to allow for a widened river. New permanent islands are integrated and used as places for people as well as habitat. Backwater sloughs and channels are constructed and formed with specific design intent. The new design will also integrate sustainable energy that utilizes hydrokinetic energy. A renewing of habitat specifically for endangered fauna such as the Palllid Sturgeon, Least Tern and Piping Plover permeates the new river design. By combining these attributes to a river design, a pardigm shift from a controlled river system to a thriving river that allows for human civilization has been obtained. This design will be the future of America’s river systems and a new way to think about the ecological wellbeing of our natrural systems. (Army Corps of Engineers, 2006, U.S. Department of the Interior, 2007, Hill, 2012, Jacobson, 2001, Kondolf, 2006)

shifting paradigms: the next missouri river How do we design for unpredictable, ever changing river systems?

Present 1894 1873

Designing for river systems starts with understanding how the system functions. The combination of both biological and geomorphological sciences point to a plethora of intricate processes. To obtain the knowledge of all these processes would take a team of hundreds of scientists. As a landscape architect, designing for a river system means being able to gather pertinent ideas to formulate a big idea. Once the big idea is formed, verifying design concepts with biologists and fluvial geomorphologists is essential. The Missouri River is an extremely complex system. Predicting how the river will behave from year to year is impossible. To anticipate the Missouri River’s flow rate or stage (height) would be inappropriate and could lead to horrific consequences. A static design system for the Missouri River, which some may argue the current dam system is, will fail eventually. A dynamic system is needed to allow for a dynamic river. Allowing for a dynamic river means allowing the river to bounce in to its designated flood plains. This is a natural process that occurs within a healthy river system. This process can also help bounce flood waters into designated flood zones to give relief to highly populated areas. With a dynamic, unchannelized river, flora and fauna thrive. Currently, the Missouri River is home to a federally endangered fish and multiple federally endangered birds. Current research points to de-channelizing the Missouri River to allow for increased habitat to protect these animals.

Left to Right: Farmland after flood waters have receded, Flooded house, River sediment over a bike path post flood, Flood remnants, Destroyed Landscape Element (Joanna, my wife, and my dog, Dori. Bottom: Stretch of River from Gavin’s Point Dam to Siouth City, IA

Elements that react to a changing river system can also attract humans and program. This design takes advantage of the Missouri River’s large amount of sediment transport and creates spaces and circulation. Along with that, elements are integrated that bounce with flood waters and are also activated when waters are low or nonexistent. Sustainable energy is also a key component of this design. Flood plains are repurposed to allow for switchgrass farming. Switchgrass can used used as a biofuel and is resilient in drought or flood conditions. Additionally, pesticides and herbicides are used much less frequently as compared to corn. Another form of sustainable energy comes in the form of hydrokinetic energy. This form of energy has been used for generations, but new technology points to a hydrokinetic system that is much simplier and less instrusive to a river’s habitat. Finally, adopting a the “Room for the River” principle along our river systems is key to the viability of river design. Embracing blue space instead of green space is essential to biological processes as well as making development feasible along the river for generations to come. (Paola, 2012, Kondolf, 2006)

shifting paradigms: the next missouri river Diagramming a New River The Missouri River has been channelized to allow for barge navigation and to allow for development in flood plain regions. Currently, many of these flood plain developments are at risk of being indundated if measures are not taken to protect these residential developments and commercial interests. In many cases, as seen in Canada and the United States, flood bypass routes are being constructed to re-route flood waters around large developments. However, this idea only serves one purpose, which is flood control.

Current Channelized River State

Proposed River State

Five Components of River Sustainability

Flood Bounce

River for People

Habitat Restoration

Sustainable Energy

These five principles of river sustainabilitiy are essential to future river design. In contrast to the current Missouri River design, this design incorporates the idea of keeping a healthy river’s identity while allowing for development and human interest. These diagrams show where these components will occur on this ten mile stretch of river re-design.

This design allows for river bounce and anticipates an everchanging river bed, which is apparent in healthy river systems. To allow for an ever-changing river and to protect existing human development, spaces and room for the river are strategically designed. These diagrams show show how the river will change with the new design. The first diagrams explain the concept in a simple format, while the second set of diagrams show the new design. Room for the River

fluvial geomorphology + design 0-.2 m/s .2-.4 m/s .4-.6 m/s

shallow medium deep

March 2012

channel side bars

point bars

channel junction bars

mid-channel bars

channel junction bars

mid-channel bars

sand waves, linguoid bars, larger dunes

braided pattern (random bar forms

October 2011

March 2012

braided pattern (random bar forms

braided pattern (random bar forms

braided pattern (random bar forms

braided pattern (random bar forms

River Science and Design The Rivers Handbook Vol.1 and Vol.2 contain the essential knowledge of 2011. of river science in regards to both biological and geological information. This design required a general knowledge base of how a river system Mathias Kondolf, professor at U.C. Berkeley, has written mutliple publications in regards to river health and hydrology. Much of his functions. research and insight is used to formulate this design. His critque of the A river’s channel is neither straight or uniform in a natural, recreation of river systems and their functionality for aesthetic reasons unchannelized state. The bed undulates and contains a series of is groundbreaking and has proven accurate in multiple instances. pools and riffles. The pools are low areas and the riffles are high areas, and this pattern can vary significantly over short distances. Trying to recreate a river system to create a picturesque 18th Century During a high discharge, water converges at pools and diverges at English landscape has proven detrimental to many river designs. Where riffles, in comparison to a low flow condition where pools have deep, flood waters can occur, many attempts to help retain a meandering slow moving waters and riffles have fast flow and steep water surface river structure have failed even if properly installed according to the gradients. The fluvial currents of the river are driven by gravitional Rosgen System. A river will simply leave its bed and create another bed within single flood event. This proves diffiicult for many designers gradients in the form of water depth. who intend to recreate a static river. In planform, a meander bend is noted to have deposition on the inside and erosion on the outside bank. This creates an assymetrical As Kondolf also points out, humans are drawn to winding walks, cross section for the channel form because of the depth change near serpetine rivers and all sorts of landscapes that allow the observer the eroded side of the bank. The river can also create a multitude and traveler to experience an element of surprise. Kondolf also cites of sandbar shapes and sizes due to the shape of the river channel, Nassauer, who expresses, “What is good may not look good, and what looks good may not be good” in regards to an ecologically sound river water flow and natural and artifical barriers. or other natural system. The channel can change due to the hydrograph of the river from year to year and season to season. Inflow sediment also has a large Finally, Kondolf points out that a more thoughtful, nuanced approach to effect on channel morphology and can effect bed and bank material, river restoration must be based on an understanding of the geomorphic and ecological contexts, historical changes, and resulting constraints along with vegetation. and opportunities. A river’s stage (height according to a particular datum) is affected by the amount of snowmelt or thaw that occurs at its headwaters. (Kondolf, 1995, Kondolf, 2006, Paola, 2012, Hill, 2012, Calow 1992 For instance, the Missouri River in the winter of 2011 had 99% snow and 1994) coverage near its headwaters, but in the winter of 2012 had 46.8% snow coverage. A critical condition of river flood waters occurs when snow coverage is high, the soil below the snow is also frozen, and an above average rainfall occurs. This was the condition in the winter

fluvial geomorphology + design Form and Flow Flow is generally considered the primary variable driving process in the river ecosystem. Through the periodic flow variation, the renewal of riparian vegetation communities can occur, fish spawning habitats emerge, and the transport of nutrients can be shared between the river and floodplain. With an engineered river system such as the Missouri River, periodic flows are less realistic than in an unchannelized river system. However, the hydrograph, which is the defintion of the change in flow of a particular river system, can be restored somewhat to mimic a healthy river system by allowing for more water to be released at a higher rate from the reservoirs in the spring months, for instance. If flow is restored, it can help with the timing of floods, water tempearture and turbidity.


Approx. 24,000 cfs


Approx. 16,000 cfs


Approx. 37,000 cfs

The hydrological characteristics of a river channel include magnitude, frequency, duration, timing and rate of change. These characteristics determine how much water is in the channel and for how long. The hydrological characteristics of the Missouri River have been affected by the addition of revetments along its banks. Revetments like wing dikes cause the thalweg of the river, or main channel, to self-dredge. This has caused the Missouri River to incise 3-5 meters as far as 100 km downstream from its dams. Predicting stream flows and depth is not an analytical science. There are no known processes for determining exactly how a river will change over time. There are only parameters that can be followed to corral river waters into its designated flood plain. When designing for river systems, research has pointed to a staging method with multiple tiers the river can somewhat adhere to. Benefits of the staging method include the establishment of vegetation, decreased erosion rates because the river is allowed to spread horizontally instead of being vertically constricted. During a drought condition, the lowest channel can still provide sufficient water depth for fish. Floods can be pushed out into the upper tier or flood plain and prevent constriction and release of flood waters on to developed areas near the river.

Early Spring

Approx. 20,000 cfs

Late Spring

Approx. 32,000 cfs

Flood Condtions Approx. 60,000 cfs+

fluvial geomorphology + design Modeling River Sediment Possibly the most notable attribute of the Missouri River is the amount of sediment it transports. This sediment will settle and suspend itself where ever the water takes it. Whenever water slows because of a natural or artificial barrier, sediment will settle. The science behind this sediment transport revolves around the Rouse Number. This number measures the settling velocity over the upward force of a sediment particle. This explains why when water slows, sediment starts to fall and accumulate. Throughout the Missouri River’s channel, sandbars are formed periodically when waters recede in the late summer, fall and winter. These sandbars become areas of refuge for not only animals and plants, but also for humans. To someone that has llived on the Missouri River or who frequently visits it by boat, sandbar formations can be a great place to relax and hang out.

In addition to sediment maniuplation devices, I consulted the University of Minnesota’s Dental Department. I worked with a dentistry student, Dan Einerson, who created a compound mix to allow me to see the changes over time to a particular shape in a river system. Many shapes were created and were placed in a small stream. Over the course of a couple days, the shapes began to erode in certain areas based on their geometries. For instance, a square shape took on direct water flow and eroded in that area. A triangle shape shed water to move around itself. Because of bathtub and small stream research, this project is able to develop ideas about sandbar forms and sediment manipulation, along with how to armor islands or other built objects in a river system. Video created to show bathrub modeling:

Knowing that the Missouri River will continue to carry sediment and create sandbar formations offers a unique opporunity for river design. (Paola, 2012, Hill, 2012, Calow, 1994) Manipulating sediment formations with the use of different river tools adds to the many layers of river programmability for humans.



Understanding how certain built structures in a river system manipulate sediment is not a well documented science. So, in order to understand how certain objects manipulate sediment for this project, a river system was created in my bathtub. Because sediment transport and manipulation transfers scales, (i.e. the sand that settles in a curb and gutter system after rain water has dissipated mimics patterns of a drought condition after a large scale river flood) a bathtub modeling system allows for multiple design iterations of tools and manipulation devices.

fluvial geomorphology + design


Above: A portion of the shapes that were tested in the bathtub laboratory. The sediment is fine grain modeling gravel and is the dark substance against the orange wood.

sustainable energy Owner and Property/Land Assessment Value 1. Gertrude Peterson, Virginia Trustee $787,960.00 2. Kent A. Tietjen $125,260.00 3. Stephen T. Calhoun $152,920.00 4. Janet and Roger Tripp $166,945.00 5. Thomas and Amy Love $291,045.00 6. Carlotta Hall $238.090.00 7. Gary and Sue Smith $95,515.00 8


8. Aaron Sila $90,445

Total Hypothetical Buyout: 5 6

1 4 32

21st Century River Energy Harvesting energy from the river has been key component of human civilization for thousands of years. Today, energy is harvested from the six dams along the Missouri River. These dams generate enough energy to provide power for the cities that lie adjacent to them. However, the cost of maintenance for these dams in the next 25 years will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. A new system of river energy harvesting needs to be integrated into sustainable river design.

The Nebraska side of the Missouri River is home to a large amount of private farms and residences. Because of the properties are private residences’, the properties must be overtaken if the homeowners New research points to a less invasive form of hydrokinetic energy. concur. This becomes proplematic for the final design, which assumes Small wind turbine shaped devices are currently being tested and that all homeowners will allow for the overtake of their residences. implemented into river systems. This technology will change the way river energy is harvested. The challenge with small, less (Hill, 2012, Hooimeijer, 2008) invasive hydrokinetic systems in riverine environments is the changing environment of the river system. The Missouri River changes geomorphologicallly monthly, and can inhibit a small hydrokinetic device. The idea is to allow the hydrokinetic energy to evolve with conditions. When condtiions endorse flood conditions, the hydrokinetic apparatus’ must accomodate that. When flood conditions arise, the hydrokinetic device will flourish. Aside from the main thalweg and the off-chutes of the Missouri River, a floodplain environment exists. These environments can be utilized to allow for plants such as switchgrass. Switchgrass is a perennial plant that can be harvested for its biofuel. It is resilient to flood environments and can deal with drought conditions. Switchgrass also allows for the integration of local farming. The implemenation of swithgrass into the floodplain allows local famers to continue their efforts and financial progresssion.


C Left: Craig Hill from the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory holding a hydrokinetic apparatus. Top Right: Private Ownership in Nebraska Bottom Right: Circles represent possible hydrokinetic implemenation, green represents areas for switchgrass farming

Farmers on the Nebraska side of the river will be asked to sell some of their land for the expansion of the Missouri River. This concept has been taken from the Army Corp of Engineers’, who express that before buying the land of residents living within a floodplain, the government must ask and respecct the resquests of the property owner.

#1 - Backup Marshes, Backwaters, Sloughs, Oxbows

1 2

#2 -Chutes, Side Channels, Sandbars, Pools, Islands

4 3 A



habitat restoration Designing for Habitat By combining research with design, recreating river habitat is a goal that can be attained. The Missouri River has a very intricate biological system and may require centuries to restore to its original form. However, designing a new habitat should be on the forefront of sustainable river design. This theory has been adopted by the Army Corp of Engineers as they attempt to recreate backwater channels, among other endeavors. Biologists, geologists and ecologists are currently working hard to revive a once wild and scenic river and help restore three endangered species that are integral to the health fo the Missouri River. These specie include the Pallid Sturgeon, the Piping Plover and the Least Tern.

#3 -Main Thalweg

One of the measures currently being taken to revive habitat includes recreating a natural flow pattern (hydrograph) for the Missouri River. A high rate of flow in the spring is essential for fish that use this as a cue for spawning. This high rate of flow also contributes to the sand bar formations that will happen as the spring waters recede. These sandbars are integral for Least Tern and Piping Plover nesting.

#4 -Ecological Corridors, Prairie, Wetlands

Due to the channelization of the Missouri River and the dam system, the waters are forced to remain inside a constricted channel, which disallows the bounce necessary for quality floodplain and backwater habitat. Additionally, slow and shallow water is important as rearing and nursery habitat for many young fishes. The river’s ability to undulate and change flow and depth over time is key to creating a viable riverine habitat. Over hanging banks, cutoff channels, slow, deep flow in pools and shallow flow in riffles are just a few of the ingredients of a healthy river system. The idea of restoring habitat that increases river length by restoring cut off channels, decreasing velocities and increasing channel width may be the essential idea behind restoring the endangered Pallid Sturgeon. Additionally, the pallid sturgeon has shown a pattern of

requiring certain conditions. Among these conditions includes a rate of change in water velocities between .5 and .8 meters/second. The rate of change in velocity is also preferred to be between .8 and 4.0%. Creating channels with much undulation, between 2-20 degrees in slope, is recommended. High channel complexity is also highly recommended to help mimic a natural river conditoin, along with a low Froude Number, which is determined to be around .06-.15. To give a comparion, the preferred Froude Number of kayakers is around 1.0. When designing for river habitat, complexity is an essential component and should be developed if possible. If the river is allowed to change without direct instruction, natural habitat will thrive. In this design, the key components to a healthy Missouri River are integrated. These key components include backup marshes, sloughs and oxbows. Along with these features, chutes, side channels, sandbars, pools, islands, main thalweg conditions, ecological corridors, prairie conditions and wetlands are essential. With each of these river environments comes a plethora of plants and animals. *To integrate the idea of change in design, attributes such as season, year, flow rate and stage height will be given for all renderings and other designs to reference the river conditions. (Jacobson,2001 and 2004, Committee on Missouri River Ecosystem Science, 2002, Calow, 1992 and 1994, Struckhoff, 2011)

habitat restoration Area 1: Backup Marshes, Backwaters, Sloughs, Oxbows

Area 3: Main Thalweg Shads, Shiners, Suckers, Redhorse, Bass, Catfish, Drum

Area 4: Ecological Corridors, Prairie, Wetlands

Mayflies, Mosquitos, Caddieflies, Stoneflies, Damselflies, Paddlefish, Crappies, Minnows, Carpsucker, Cottonwoods, Cattail, Spikerush, Duckweed, Flatsedge, Dogwood, Willow, Silver Maple

Area 2: 2 Chutes, Side Channels, Sandbars, Pools, Islands

Pallid Sturgeon, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Shiners, Pike, Mosquitofish, Walleye, Topminnows, Horsetail, Sandbar Willows, Cottonwoods

Turkey, Deer, Phaesant, Geese, Duck, Common Grape Vine, Hackberry, Poison Ivy, Ash, Switchgrass, Buffalo Grass

habitat restoration Backwater Triangle Over time, a river design should have the ability to change and still retain some character of the original design intent. The backwater triangle as seen to the left is the definition of change with purpose. Over time, this backwater triangle will be scoured away to a certain extent. However, even though the triangle will start to scour away, a portion of it will retain its original character. This concept is much like the “cues of care� concept used in ecological design. Even though the designed river system will be one of change, a certain mark of design intent will be apparent.

Summer/2020/31k cfs/Stage Height 18 ft

habitat restoration

Summer/2040/80k cfs/Stage Height 37 ft

habitat restoration

Summer/2045/15k cfs/Stage Summer/2040/80k cfs/Stage Height Height 12 37ftft

habitat restoration

Scoured to the Triangle/Spring 2050/20k cfs/Stage Height 15 ft

designing for changing river conditions

Flood Bounce Areas River



Gauge Height 32 Gauge Height: 24 Gauge Height: 16

Utilizing Floodplains and Room For the River Principles to Alleviate Floodwaters The original flood protection infrastructure lies directly adjacent to any river system. This infrastructure is known as the floodplain. Today, these areas are primarily farmed because of their nutrient rich soils and are cut off from the river with levees and wing dikes to prevent erosion. As George Fitch stated in 1907, “Farming was as fascinating as gambling” on the Missouri River because floodwaters would inundate farmed floodplains. Governmental entities are continuing to design large flood protection systems. Many of these systems are multi billion dollar projects that function solely as large ditches. These ditches are not designed to increase natural habitat, harvest sustainable energy or create space for people.

Channels integrated with the Dakota Dunes Development

To allow for floodplains to be utilized as flood water protection, removal of current levees is essential. These current levees channelize the main thalweg, preventing the river from expanding into its floodplain. When the Gavin’s Point Dam releases water at a rate of 50,000+ cfs, the water rises close to the limits of the levee heights. When the water finally has a stage high enough to exceed the levee heights, catastrophic floods incur.

Golf Course

Newly Formed Channel

Privately Funded Flood Apparatus to Protect Homes

This design incorporates the idea of moving the current levees thousands of feet in to the floodplain areas in the form of large land forms, so that river water can spread out in to the floodplain. This concept allows for three things. The first thing includes helping the Missouri River retain its original ever-changing form which will increase natural habitat and healthy biological processes. Second, the floodplains can be used to alleviate flood waters. Lastly, the repositioned levees still protect human civilization. The Dakota Dunes Development on the South Dakota side of the river will also be utilized to alleviate flood waters. Using the Dutch

“Room for the River” philosophy, this development can use its golf course “rough” to create channels to help with flood bounce. The edges of the development near the river will still be leveed, but now the levees have intermittent areas where the rising water can move in to. With an open floodplain environment, the river is now free to move wherever it wants to within the designated floodplain zone. Sometimes the floodplain environment will be that of high waters and sometimes there will be drought conditions. This means that any landscape elements wiithin the floodplain will need to fluctuate wiith change over time. In addition, the amount of stress landscape elements will endure calls for structural integrity possibly down to bedrock in some areas. Walkways will need to float when waters are high and will need to adjust to a changing landform when drought conditions arise. Some walkways will be elevated with concrete pilings. The levee systems at the edge of the floodplain will be constructed from fill. This fill will be taken from the newly cut side channels. The design incorporates a correct amount of cut and fill to allow for these landform levees, which helps elliminate the need for hauling dirt offsite. (Kondolf, 2006, Jacobson, 2001, Paola, 2012)

designing for changing river conditions

Typology Map

Elevated Path - For Extremely Dynamic Landscapes - Footings reach Bedrock

Upland Path - For 25+ ft above 20 ft Gauge Height Avg. - Steel Edge/Class 5/Compacted Soil/ Crushed Limestone

Floating Path - Floats with technology used in speed boats - Anchored in Intermittent Channels

Elevated Tree Path Attached to Trees 20-30� in calipar

designing for changing river conditions Rip Rap


Concrete Elements


Steel Pilings

Concrete Backing

Type C. River Wall

Type A. Levee System

Retractable Floating Membrance

Tetrapods Steel and Concrete

Waterproofed Concrete Base forming Channel for Membrane Type B. Permanent Island Armoring

Privatized Flood Control

master plan River Transformation Designing for the Missouri River requires a knowledge base of how the river behaves. A pressing question for any river design is whether or not the river will remain a certain planform over time or if it will change from year to year and season to season. This answer, using research, aerial photography and georeferenced data, is that the Missouri River can and will change drastically if it is allowed to do so. This plan shows a glimpse in time of the new river design in Sioux City. Every year, the designs’ elements will change in many places, but will remain the same in others. For instance, some islands will remain permanent and some islands will allow for sediment accumulation that will change over time and allow for new spaces to be formed. The designated floodplain areas will inevitably evolve and scour as the river floods and cuts into the banks. This will be embraced and celebrated because the area the river is allowed to flow unrestricted will have edge protection for the surrounding community. The big idea includes tearing into existing floodplains to make room for a new stretch of unchannelized river. A large amount of cut will be accumulated after the new channels are formed. This will allow for fill to be shaped and formed to create spaces for people and to form protection for the surrounding built environments. The most prominent aspect of the design, besides the fact that the new river park is 10 miles in width, includes a 90 foot high landform levee that creates space for people and protects the farmland and ecological corridors behind it. The landform curves four miles along the river and includes a three tiered system for hiking, camping, and large gathering spaces. The view from the top of the levee allows its visitors to see a large portion of the Missouri River, Sioux City and upsteream as far as Vermillion. As one moves downstream towards Sioux City, multiple permanent island forms are designed to create space for people as well as

animals. The islands are armored and meant for stability over time as the river surrounding them shifts and changes over time. Elements throughout the site include floating islands, perforated circle islands, sickle-circle islands, as well as a park area directly adjacent to South Sioux City, Nebraska. The park connects pedestrians across the river to Sioux City, Iowa, which creates a strong connection across the river for people that was absent. The backwater triangle is a prominent piece of landscape architecture from plan view and creates rigid geometry in a biomorphic environment. This triangle also eludes to where flood waters are intended to bounce into. The triangle’s riverside edge will scour eventually, but the geometry will partially remain to show a cue of care for the design. Overall, the design creates an unprecedented experience for people. The design speaks to what a healthy river system can provide for flora and fauna and also projects what flood control will be in the future. Taking advantage of the river’s sediment load to create space and program combines both science and design and will allow for embraced change and will create interest from year to year.


Year A

Year B

master plan Flowing Water Backwaters/Flood Bounce Areas (Triangle Constructed)

Year C

Year D

Year E

Permanent Island Forms

Permanent Landform/Non Island (Constructed)

Sandbar Formations

Year F

Year G

Year H

River Transformation The idea behind the construction of the design includes a multi-year phasing effort because of the vast amount of large and small scale elements. The initial years of the building process include cutting single channels into the floodplain. When a channel is cut, the fill is strategically placed in the floodplain anticipating the future design. Each year, the sediment will change and be maniuplated in different ways based on the the stage and flow rate of the river. As the key indicates, some islands are permanent and some are temporary. The permanent islands are armored to withstand the river’s ability to erode landform. Many islands that are of temporary nature will emerge in different places from season to season. Some sediment will accumulate in predictable areas. The unique quality of the design lies in the fact that it embraces a dynamic quality. The elements will shift and change, but within a set of parameters. Because of its dynamic quality, the design will last for centuries.

design elements

Hovering over 90 ft Levee/Early Fall 2025/22k cfs/Stage Height 17 ft

design elements

90 Foot Levee Gauge Height 32

Gauge Height: 24 Gauge Height: 16


Silt/Sand/Fertile Soils

Backwater Wetlands: Cattail, Spikerush, Flatsedge, Duckweed, Bulrush

Harvested Plant: Switchgrass

Rock/Sand Base

Upland Plants: Sideoats Grama, Buffalo Grass, Little Bluestem, Canada Wild-rye, Indian Grass, Wheatgrass, Bur Oak


Shoreline Plants: Cottonwoods, Sandbar Willows, Horsetail, Rough Leaf Dogwood


Shoreline Plants: Cottonwoods, Sandbar Willows, Horsetail, Rough Leaf Dogwood

design elements Sioux City South Park

ped bridge connection

Sioux City South, NE athletic fields


A park that Sioux City South can call its own would be very powerful. The blue collar Nebraska city is home to a wide range of ethnicities and people from various backgrounds. The 2011 floodwaters engulfed a massive soccer complex, leaving fields covered in sediment and inaccessable. This catastrophy points to the need for a park that is resilient to floodwaters and integrates program that the city will embrace. The park, which is over a mile long, celebrates activities on and near the river. Thousands of feet of tiered seating that allows for high waters defines three spaces created by vanes that stretch out into the river at 30 degrees. These vanes maniuplate sediment in unique patterns near their tip in the form of scour holes and flamelike sandbar formations. Sediment is also maniuplated by islands that lie between the vane formations. Over time, these islands will connect to each other because of the sediment accumulation.


Also integrated into the design are soccer fields, baseball fields and football fields to accomodate Sioux City’s active athletic scene. The landform of the park can be used as a seating element for athletic events.

sediment maniuplation islands

connection to rest of river park

design elements

Sioux City South Park/Early Fall 2020/17k cfs/Stage Height 14 ft

design elements Embracing Change Island formations, based on the bathtub modeling experiment, are intending to allow people to experience the Missouri River’s most prominent attributes. The islands are solely intended to create to different spaces and connections over time. Additionally, some of the islands will float to allow for access during flood conditions. The Missouri River is an ideal place for recreational boating for those that can maneuver around emerging sandbars to finally land at the ideal mid-river sandbar stop. The perforated circle islands allow for boaters to find new spaces year after year. This also encourages visitors to continue to visit the spaces because of the high degree of change. The sickle circle islands connect directly to land and are intended to be tranquil spaces. Each island near the sickle islands’ tip relies on the sickle to create a sediment landform bridge so that people can access the islands. The sickle islands allows sediment to shoot at a 45 degree angle from its furthest tip to connec to the circle islands.

design elements

Perforated Circle Island/Summer 2035/22k cfs/Stage Height 19 ft

design elements Floating Islands

Summer/2020/18k cfs/Stage Height 16 ft

This concept and design embrace the flood and drought condition of the river. Additionally, the floating islands iconically represent an element in the river that is explicitly and very intentionally designed. This contrast creates an interesting juxtaposition with the ever changing environment that surround the islands. Each island can be programmed differently and allows for flexibility. The design intent is to use the floating islands for family gatherings, brithday parties, concerts, fishing trips, camping, and relaxation. Because the Missouri River is such an enjoyable amenity for people, the islands provide the means to river access.

design elements

sustainable energy





programming Winter





Fishing Ice Fishing Walking/Jogging Biking Snowshoeing Camping Hunting Hockey/Skating Picnicking Mushroom Hunting Concerts/Outdoor Events Basketball/Soccer/Baseball/Football/Bocce/Tennis/Golf Food Carts/Outoor Food Events/Farmers Market Research Energy Production Swimming Kayaking Lodging Star Gazing Cross Country Skiing Snomobiling ATV Tree Walks


The land is mine and you are aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land. -Leviticus 25:23-24

As we shift paradigms from river exploitation to river sustainability, we must remember that rivers will always possess a dynamic quality and must be restored accordingly. Additionally, as landscape architects continue to pursue river restoration projects, it is imperative that we surround ourselves with experts in the fields of fluvial geomorphology, ecology and biology. With the combination of the five river sustainability elements, landscape architects and scientists will be able to revive America’s river systems.

appendices: initial idea generation

0 ft





appendices: initial idea generation



appendices: initial idea generation

appendices: initial idea generation

appendices: the river toolbox

appendices: the river toolbox

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Ryan Herm MLA 2012 University of Minnesota Matthew Tucker Committee Chair Assistant Professor UMN|LA


Ryan Herm MLA 2012 University of Minnesota Matthew Tucker Committee Chair Assistant Professor UMN|LA