The computation of scour at bridges within HEC-RAS is based upon the methods outlined in Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 18 (FHWA, 2001). Before performing a scour analysis with the HEC-RAS software, the engineer should thoroughly review the procedures outlined in the Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 18 (HEC 18) report. This chapter presents the data input required for computing contraction scour and local scour at piers and abutments.
For information on the bridge scour equations, please see Chapter 10 of the HEC-RAS Hydraulic Reference Manual.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The HEC-RAS software is based on the 2001 version of the FHWA HEC No. 18 manual. This manual has been modified since that time. However, the HEC-RAS software has not been modified to keep up with the changes that FHWA has made to the Bridge Scour document. The bridge scour routines have been left in HEC-RAS in order to reproduce previous studies that used this software and that version of the HEC No. 18 document.

General Modeling Guidelines

In order to perform a bridge scour analysis, the user must first develop a hydraulic model of the river reach containing the bridge to be analyzed. This model should include several cross sections downstream from the bridge, such that any user defined downstream boundary condition does not affect the hydraulic results inside and just upstream of the bridge. The model should also include several cross sections upstream of the bridge, in order to evaluate the long term effects of the bridge on the water surface profile upstream.

The hydraulic modeling of the bridge should be based on the procedures outlined in Chapter 5 of the Hydraulic Reference Manual. If observed data are available, the model should be calibrated to the fullest extent possible. Once the hydraulic model has been calibrated (if observed data are available), the modeler can enter the design events to be used for the scour analysis. In general, the design event for a scour analysis is usually the 100 year (1 percent chance) event. In addition to this event, it is recommended that a 500 year (0.2 percent chance) event also be used in order to evaluate the bridge foundation under a super-flood condition.
The next step is to turn on the flow distribution option in the HEC-RAS software. This option allows for additional output showing the distribution of flow for multiple subdivisions of the left and right overbanks, as well as the main channel. The output of the flow distribution option includes the following items for each flow slice: percentage of flow; flow area; wetted perimeter; conveyance; hydraulic depth; and average velocity. The user can control the number of slices in each flow element (left overbank, main channel, and right overbank), up to a maximum of 45 total slices. The flow distribution output is controlled from the Options menu of the Steady Flow Analysis window (see Chapter 7, Simulation Options).

The user must request the flow distribution output for the cross sections inside the bridge, the cross section just upstream of the bridge, and the approach section (cross section upstream of the bridge at a distance such that the flow lines are parallel and the flow has not yet begun to contract due to the bridge constriction). Flow distribution output can be requested at additional cross sections, but these are the only cross sections that will be used in the bridge scour computations. The flow distribution option must be turned on in order to get more detailed estimates of the depth and velocity at various locations within the cross section. Once the user has turned this option on, the profile computations must be performed again in order for the flow distribution output to be computed and included in the output file.

After performing the water surface profile calculations for the design events, and computing the flow distribution output, the bridge scour can then be evaluated. The total scour at a highway crossing is comprised of three components: long-term aggradation and degradation; contraction scour; and local scour at piers and abutments. The scour computations in the HEC-RAS software allow the user to compute contraction scour and local scour at piers and abutments. The current version of the HEC-RAS software does not allow the user to evaluate long-term aggradation and degradation. Long term aggradation and degradation should be evaluated before performing the bridge scour analysis. Procedures for performing this type of analyses are outlined in the HEC No. 18 report.