AbstractThe large pier of an emblematic bridge built in 2008 in the Ebro River (Zaragoza, Spain) obstructs the flow in high floods. Clear-water scour experiments in a scale model were conducted to anticipate maximum local scour depths and design riprap protections. These proved to be effective during a large flood event in 2015, but bed aggradation under the left bridge span and deep scour under the right one, not mirroring the bed deformation observed in the model, raised concerns about the bridge safety. The effects of the protected pier on the changes in the aftermath of the 2015 flood are discussed. It is shown that a large meander upstream generated an imbalance in the spanwise bedload distribution, leading to sedimentation on the left and contraction scour on the right. The paper argues for the need to take into account the effects of large piers on river morphology at the bridge planning phase. The case study shows that using a clear-water model to design the riprap protection is adequate, but more importantly, that the fluvial processes during a flood could only be studied with a live-bed model with geometrical detail of the full river reach, namely, the upstream meander.

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