Ship Shoal, a transgressive sand body located at the 10 m isobath off south-central Louisiana, is deemed a potential sand source for restoration along the rapidly eroding Isles Dernieres barrier chain and possibly other sites in Louisiana. Through numerical wave modeling we evaluate the potential response of mining Ship Shoal on the wave field. During severe and strong storms, waves break seaward of the western flank of Ship Shoal. Therefore, removal of Ship Shoal (approximately 1.1 billion m3) causes a maximum increase of the significant wave height by 90%–100% and 40%–50% over the shoal and directly adjacent to the lee of the complex for two strong storm scenarios. During weak storms and fair weather conditions, waves do not break over Ship Shoal. The degree of increase in significant wave height due to shoal removal is considerably smaller, only 10%–20% on the west part of the shoal. Within the context of increasing nearshore wave energy levels, removal of the shoal is not significant enough to cause increased erosion along the Isles Dernieres. Wave approach direction exerts significant control on the wave climate leeward of Ship Shoal for stronger storms, but not weak storms or fairweather. Instrumentation deployed at the shoal allowed comparison of measured wave heights with numerically derived wave heights using STWAVE. Correlation coefficients are high in virtually all comparisons indicating the capability of the model to simulate wave behavior satisfactorily at the shoal.
Directional waves, currents and sediment transport were measured during winter storms associated with frontal passages using three bottom-mounted arrays deployed on the seaward and landward sides of Ship Shoal (November, 1998–January, 1999). Episodic increases in wave height, mean and oscillatory current speed, shear velocity, and sediment transport rates, associated with recurrent cold front passages, were measured. Dissipation mechanisms included both breaking and bottom friction due to variable depths across the shoal crest and variable wave amplitudes during storms and fair-weather. Arctic surge fronts were associated with southerly storm waves, and southwesterly to westerly currents and sediment transport. Migrating cyclonic fronts generated northerly swell that transformed into southerly sea, and currents and sediment transport that were southeasterly overall. Waves were 36% higher and 9% longer on the seaward side of the shoal, whereas mean currents were 10% stronger landward, where they were directed onshore, in contrast to the offshore site, where seaward currents predominated. Sediment transport initiated by cold fronts was generally directed southeasterly to south-westerly at the offshore site, and southerly to westerly at the nearshore site. The data suggest that both cold fronts and the shoal, exert significant influences on regional hydrodynamics and sediment transport.