US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4265

Prepared in cooperation with the Nebraska Department of Roads,Nebraska Department of Natural Resources,Lower Platte South Natural Resources District,Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District,U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Sedimentation Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture


Dredged and straightened channels in eastern Nebraska have experienced degradation leading to channel widening by bank failure. Degradation has progressed headward and affected the drainage systems upstream from the modified reaches. This report describes a study that was undertaken to analyze bank stability at selected sites in eastern Nebraska and develop a simplified method for estimating the stability of banks at future study sites. Bank cross sections along straight reaches of channel and geotechnical data were collected at approximately 150 sites in 26 counties of eastern Nebraska. The sites were categorized into three groups based on mapped soil permeability. With increasing permeability of the soil groups, the median cohesion values decreased and the median friction angles increased. Three analytical methods were used to determine if banks were stable (should not fail even when saturated), at risk (should not fail unless saturated), or unstable (should have already failed). The Culmann and Agricultural Research Service methods were based on the Coulomb equation and planar failure; an indirect method was developed that was based on Bishop’s simplified method of slices and rotational failure. The maximum angle from horizontal at which the bank would be stable for the given soil and bank height conditions also was computed with the indirect method. Because of few soil shear-strength data, all analyses were based on the assumption of homogeneous banks, which was later shown to be atypical, at least for some banks.