AIMS Geosciences, 2016, 2(4): 401-412. doi: 10.3934/geosci.2016.4.401

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Characterization of Dredged Oyster Shell Deposits at Mobile Bay, Alabama Using Geophysical Methods

Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO 65401

The need for disposing materials dredged from ship channels is a common problem in bays and lagoons. This study is aimed at investigating the suitability of scour features produced by dredging oyster shell deposits in Mobile Bay, Alabama, to dispose excavated channel material. A study area approximately 740 by 280 m lying about 5 km east of Gaillard Island was surveyed using underwater electrical resistivity tomography (UWERT) and continuous electrical resistivity profiling (CERP) tools. The geophysical survey was conducted with the intent to map scour features created by oyster shell dredging activities in the bay between 1947 and 1982. The geoelectrical surveys show that oyster beds are characterized by high resistivity values greater than 1.1 ohm.m while infilled dredge cuts show lower resistivity, generally from 0.6 to 1.1 ohm.m. The difference in resistivity mainly reflects the lithology and the consolidation of the shallow sediments: consolidated silty clay and sandy sediments rich in oyster shell deposits (with less clay content) overlying unconsolidated clayey materials infilling the scours. Results show that most of the infilled dredge cuts are mostly distributed in the north-south direction. Considering that the scours are generally up to 6 m deep across the survey location, it is estimated that about 0.8 million cubic meters of oyster shells and overlying strata were dredged from the survey location.
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