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University of Iowa News Release

May 3, 2005

Papanicolaou Receives $140,000 Grant To Study Stream Bank Protection

Thanos Papanicolaou, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the University of Iowa College of Engineering and associate faculty research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, has received a $140,000 research grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) for a pilot study to monitor and evaluate devices used to reduce stream bank erosion.

The grant, effective from May 1, 2005, through Oct. 31, 2006, will focus on "barbs," trapezoidal-shaped structures that project out from the stream bank and into the main channel to deflect currents. In particular, he will study stream bank erosion and channel alignment at the U.S. Highway 169 bridge over the South Raccoon River, about 1.1 miles north of I-80 in Dallas County.

Papanicolaou notes that one survey estimates the cost of U.S. stream bank erosion at more than $1 billion over the past five years in lost agricultural land and damaged bridges and other structures.

"The scouring of bridge foundations and the unwarranted migration or failure of stream banks can be subtle, yet damaging problems. These events place hardships on state and county engineers, the transportation infrastructure, and landowners," he says. "The majority of scour-related studies in rivers and streams in Iowa and the Midwest indicate that bridge pier protection is strongly interrelated to bank stability."

He says that successful barbs lower water speed, turbulence and shear stress along stream banks immediately upstream of a bridge, and adds that they should also be environmentally acceptable for aquatic species and aesthetically pleasing. Examples of structures used in recent years are Iowa vanes, spur dikes, and groins.

Papanicolaou says that the study hopefully will enhance existing design procedures used by the IDOT and by county and civil engineers. Papanicolaou, together with his graduate students James Fox and Lisa Kjos, developed the barb design currently used in Pacific Northwest barbs and adapted for Iowa.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,