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Specific Model Studies
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Site-Specific Research
-Meeting stakeholders’ needs by providing safe, economical design alternatives

The USDA-ARS Hydraulic Engineering Research Unit (HERU) scientists are requested periodically by stakeholders to conduct “site-specific” physical model studies. Geometrically scaled models to accurately simulate prototype flow conditions allow scientists to optimize the efficiency and design of the hydraulic structure planned for a specific location. These studies are intended to provide safe, economical design alternatives for consideration by engineers. Scientists can conduct these model studies from small-scale to prototype dimensions due to the availability of indoor and outdoor research facilities. Model flow rates from a trickle up to 120 cfs of gravity flow, such that there is not energy cost associated with the flow, are available for testing. Physical scale modeling is a reliable method for reproducing results at prototype scale when the modeling is performed properly. Physical modeling may be used to optimize the design of hydraulic structure through the examination of small changes (i.e. geometry, flow conditions) in the design. In addition, physical modeling may unveil issues (i.e. vortices, cavitation, scour development, etc.) related to the hydraulic performance of the structure. HERU scientists have partnered with federal government agencies (i.e. USDA-NRCS, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers); state, county, and local agencies (i.e. Gwinnett County, Georgia); and academia (i.e. Oklahoma State University, Kansas State University, Baylor University, University of Mississippi, among others) to address specific concerns as they relate to hydraulic engineering, geotechnical engineering, and computational fluid dynamics. While many of the studies originate as site-specific, results from these studies have often been adapted to other site locations across the U.S. Examples of site-specific studies conducted by HERU scientists include:

Boomer Lake Spillway with a Saint Anthony Falls Stilling Basin, Oklahoma


Franklin County Lake Spillway, Mississippi

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Riffle-Pool Rock Chute, Sugar Creek Watershed, OK
Adapted to other sites in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Minnesota


Stepped Chutes for Embankment Overtopping Protection
Randleman Dam, North Carolina
Cedar Run Site 6, Virginia
Salado Site 10, Texas (adapted to sites in TX, OK, and VA)
Big Haynes Site H-3, Georgia (adapted to sites in VA, NM, and KY)
Renwick Dam, North Dakota

To learn more about our site-specific research, visit our publication index and request a publication. If you have a site-specific research need, contact research leader, Dr. Sherry Hunt.