December 2005 Louisiana Geological Survey
oten culturally distinctive nature o many o the numerous com-munities that had developed within St. Bernard Parish since 1780,when it was rst settled.Beore the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, St. BernardParish possessed a diverse industrial base. Along the east bank o the Mississippi River, mostly between Arabia and Chalmette, theindustrial base included sugar (American Sugar and Domino Sugarreneries) and petrochemical (Murphy Oil and Tenneco Oil rener-ies) reneries. Further south, the industrial base consisted mainly o seaood processing plants and some shipbuilding. The populationwithin lowermost part o St. Bernard Parish depended almost entirelyupon shrimping, shing, and oyster arming.The eort by the citizens o St. Bernard Parish to return to whatis their home, rebuild their communities and livelihoods, and remainto lead productive lives will require an understanding o the natureand physical properties o the deltaic sediments that underlie St.Bernard Parish. The physical (engineering) properties o these sedi-ments have been described and summarized in a number o publishedstudies, i.e. Kolb and Van Lopik (1958), Dunbar et al. (1994), Kolb(1962), and Montgomery (1974). Additional geotechnical datais available rom a study, U.S. Army Corps o Engineers (1958),conducted or the construction o the Mississippi River-Gul Outlet(MRGO) channel. These reports, their plates, and 1:62,500 scalegeologic maps are currently available online at U.S. Army Corps o Engineers (2004).A summary o the inormation available rom the above sourcesin relationship to a preliminary geologic map o the urban core o St. Bernard Parish will be presented in this report. This map was pre-pared rom an examination o LIDAR (LIght Detecting And Rang-ing) digital elevation models, soil surveys by Trahan et al. (1989,2000), 1:24,000 scale topographic mapping, and various historicand contemporary aerial imagery. The compilation and analysis o data rom geotechnical investigations produced or various LouisianaDepartment o Transportation and Development, U.S. Army Corpso Engineers, local reneries, and local government projects wouldprovide an even more detailed picture o the engineering geologyo St. Bernard Parish.
Within St. Bernard Parish, urban centers and industrial complexesoccupy alluvial ridges, called natural levees, which fank both sideso river and distributary channels (Figure 1). Natural levees areasymmetric ridges, which are highest adjacent to their associatedchannel and slope gently away and downward in elevation rom ituntil they merge with marshes and swamps o lower elevation (Shawand Moresi 1936; Fisk and McFarlan, 1955, 1966).Distributaries are channels that branch o o the modern andrelict courses, i.e. Bayou La Loutre, o the Mississippi River. Theyare called “distributaries” because when active, they distributedfoodwaters away rom the Mississippi River into the surroundingdeltaic plain. The channels o these distributaries and their naturallevees radiate outward in a an-like network rom either the modernMississippi River or its ormer St. Bernard delta lobe trunk channel(Shaw and Moresi 1936; Fisk and McFarlan, 1955, 1966; Kolb andVan Lopik, 1958, 1966; Saucier, 1994).Within St. Bernard Parish, natural levees fank the active channelo the modern Mississippi River and the relict trunk channel andassociated relict distributary channels o the St. Bernard delta lobe.Besides the Mississippi River, the relict trunk channel, now occupiedby Bayou La Loutre, and a large relict distributary channel, now oc-cupied by Bayou Terre Aux Boeus, has large, well-developed naturallevees (Fisk and McFarlan, 1955; Kolb and Van Lopik, 1958, 1966;Saucier, 1994; Shaw and Moresi, 1936).As previously noted, the natural levees constitute the high groundwithin St. Bernard Parish. The highest part o this parish consistso the natural levee o Mississippi River, which orms its east, let-descending, bank. It is as much as 12 t (3.6 m) above sea level. Thetowns o Arabia, Chalmette, Meaux, Poydras, and Violet along withmajor industrial complexes, i.e. the sugar reneries o American Sugarand Domino Sugar and petrochemical reneries o Murphy Oil andTenneco Oil, occupied the natural levee along the east bank o theMississippi River. Chalmette and Poydras occupy segments, whichare wider than normal, where it joins respectively the natural leveeso either an unnamed distributary or Bayou La Loutre (Shaw andMoresi, 1936; Kolb and Van Lopik, 1958, 1966).These natural levees typically consist o equal proportions o highplasticity, at clay, (CH, in the Unied Soil Classication System)and low plasticity, lean clay (CL, in the Unied Soil ClassicationSystem)(gure 2). The natural levees o the Mississippi River andBayou La Loutre also consist o as much as 30 percent silt and sandysilty, which is ML in the Unied Soil Classication System. The siltand sandy silt comprise the crests o these natural levees. Typically,both the grain size and thickness o natural levee sediments decreaseaway rom it crests towards where they merges with the surround-ing delta plain (U.S. Army Corps o Engineers, 1958; Kolb and VanLopik, 1958; Kolb, 1962).Because o prolonged subaerial exposure, the sediments compris-ing natural levees are typically preconsolidated by desiccation andcementation. As a result, the cohesive clayey sediments ound withinnatural levees typically possess high cohesive shear strength, 800 to1200 lbs per square oot, and low water contents, 20 to 40 percento dry weight. Their Liquid Limits range rom 35 to 75. The watercontents o sandy silt and silt are correspondingly low and typicallyrange rom 20 to 30 percent o dry weight (U.S. Army Corps o Engineers, 1958; Kolb and Van Lopik, 1958; Kolb, 1962).Along short segments o the Mississippi River and its abandonedtrunk channel, Bayou La Loutre, lateral migration o the channelcreated narrow, but thick, sequence o point bar sediments (Figure1). These point bar deposits consist o 70 to 110 t (21 to 34 m)thick sequence o sandy sediments, which locally underlie a narrowbelt o natural levee sediments adjacent to their associated channel(Figure 2). Typically, the upper two-thirds to one-hal o the pointbar deposits consists o interstratied mixture o silty clay, silt, andsand (respectively CL, ML, and SP, in the Unied Soil ClassicationSystem). The remaining lower part o the point bar deposits consistso well-sorted (poorly graded) ne sand. Minor amounts o organicmatter, either as ragments o either dritwood or ground up debris,occur within these sediments (U.S. Army Corps o Engineers, 1958;Kolb and Van Lopik, 1958; Kolb, 1962).
The delta plain o the St. Bernard delta lobe within St. BernardParish consists o low tracts o periodically inundated land that iscovered by a carpet o herbaceous plants. Depending on the degreeo salinity, resh, brackish, or saltwater marsh covers its surace.Adjacent to the natural levees o the major distributaries and majorchannels, cypress-tupelo swamps occupy portions o the delta plain,which are not permanently covered with water. The surace o thedelta plain typically approximates mean high tide level, which is lessthan a oot (0.3 m) higher than mean sea level. Numerous lakes andinterdistributary bays o various sizes and tidal channels break thesurace o the delta plain.