Ronald M. Noble, Wolfgang H. Roth, Uday K. Patil


In the design and construction of waterfront bulkhead systems, it is essential to consider the coastal effects of tides, waves, boat wakes, currents, bottom sediment movement and bottom scour. Many improperly designed bulkhead systems experience severe loss of backfill and toe materials with the bulkhead eventually failing if it is not corrected in time. Inadequate drainage, joint connections, and/or inadequate toe protection are typically the causes of failure. This paper describes an investigation of a bulkhead system supporting a large waterfront development in southern California which was experiencing widespread sinkhole development in the bulkhead's backfill and was on the verge of losing toe material. The objective of this investigation was to determine the extent and cause of ongoing subsurface erosion, to evaluate its effect on the bulkhead stability, and to recommend and design mitigative measures. The cause of the erosion was determined to be piping of fine grained soils due to inadequate backfill drainage. A remedial drainage scheme was designed and field-tested, and several structural repair schemes were suggested for portions of the bulkhead where accumulated damage affected the integrity of the structure.


bulkhead; bulkhead system; tidal effects; erosion

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.9753/icce.v18.%25p