First Advisor

Andrew Fountain

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology






Dam removal, Erosion, Sediment, Fluvial geomorphology -- Oregon -- Sandy River Watershed, Dam retirement -- Oregon -- Sandy River, Reservoir sedimentation -- Oregon -- Sandy River Watershed



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 111 pages)


The October 2007 removal of Marmot Dam, a 14.3-m-tall dam on the Sandy River in northwestern Oregon storing approximately 730,000 m3 of impounded sediment, provided an opportunity to study short- and long-term geomorphic effects of dam removal. Monitoring reservoir morphology during the two years following dam decommissioning yields a timeline of reservoir channel change. Comparison of a pre-dam survey in 1911 with post-removal surveys provides a basis from which to gage the Reservoir Reach evolution in the context of pre-dam conditions. Analyses of time-lapse photography, topographic surveys, and repeat LiDAR data sets provide detailed spatial and temporal documentation of a release of sediment from the reservoir following dam removal. The majority of morphologic changes to the reservoir largely took place during the first few days and weeks following removal. Channel incision and widening, along with gradient changes through the Reservoir Reach, exhibit diminishing changes with time. Channel incision rates of up to 13 m/hr and widening rates of up to 26 m/hr occurred within the first 24 hours following breaching of the coffer dam. Although channel position through the Reservoir Reach has remained relatively stable due to valley confinement, its width increased substantially. The channel reached an average width of 45 m within two weeks of breaching, but then erosion rates slowed and the channel width reached about 70 to 80 m after one and two years, respectively. Diminishing volumes of evacuated sediment were measured over time through quantitative analysis of survey datasets. About 15 percent of the initial impounded sediment was eroded from the Reservoir Reach within 60 hours of breaching; after one and two years, 50 and 58 percent was eroded, respectively. Grain-size analysis of terraces cut into reservoir fill following dam removal show that bed material coarsened over time at fixed elevations and vertically downward as the channel incised. Overall, these findings indicate valley morphology and local in-channel bedrock topography controlled the spatial distribution of sediment within the reservoir reach while variability in river discharge determined the timing of episodic sediment release. Changes within the Reservoir Reach shortly after dam removal and subsequent evolution over the two years following removal are likely attributable to 1) the timing and intensity of flow events, 2) the longitudinal and stratigraphic spatial variations in deposit grain-size distributions initially and over time, and 3) the pre-dam topography and existing valley morphology.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Geology

Persistent Identifier