• Document: METHODOLOGY FOR APPLYING GEOMORPHIC RECLAMATION TO EXCESS SPOIL FILLS IN WEST VIRGINIA 1
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JASMR, 2015 Volume 4, Issue 1 METHODOLOGY FOR APPLYING GEOMORPHIC RECLAMATION TO EXCESS SPOIL FILLS IN WEST VIRGINIA1 Peter R. Michael2, Leslie C. Hopkinson, Nathan DePriest, and John D. Quaranta Abstract. Researchers at West Virginia University developed and evaluated a method for applying geomorphic landform design principles to excess spoil fills in West Virginia. Although successful in the southwestern United States, challenges to applying geomorphic reclamation to steep-slope terrain in Central Appalachia were previously identified as (1) regulatory agencies’ current intent to limit the down-gradient reach of excess spoil fills and (2) designing and constructing “natural” landforms that are stable in a youthful, erosional landscape. The methodological approach presented in this paper addresses those challenges. The researchers developed the Geomorphic Land Design method, used it to create an alternative design to an existing valley fill, and then evaluated the design based on the criteria of fill volume maintenance, channel stability, and landform stability. Potential ecological improvements over the conventional design resulted from preserved stream length and greater diversity in slope gradient and aspect. None of the geomorphic designs generated, however, satisfied all evaluation criteria simultaneously or complied with regulations governing the placement of excess spoil. Additional Key Words: landforming, natural landscaping, stream restoration, excess spoil fills, valley fills, durable rock fills. _______________________ 1 Oral paper to be presented at the 2015 National Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation, Lexington, KY Reclamation Opportunities for a Sustainable Future June 6 - 11, 2015. R.I. Barnhisel (Ed.). Published by ASMR; 1305 Weathervane Dr., Champaign, IL 61821. 2 Peter R. Michael, PE is a Geologist, U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Pittsburgh, PA 15220. Leslie C. Hopkinson, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, Nathan DePriest is a PhD Candidate, and John D. Quaranta, PhD, PE, is an Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506. Journal American Society of Mining and Reclamation, 2015 Volume 4, Issue 1 pp 57-72 DOI: http://doi.org/10.21000/JASMR15010057 For some unknown reason, the DOI doesn’t always work so if this is the case use in place of the DOI http://www.asmr.us/Portals/0/Documents/Journal/Volume-4-Issue-1/Michael-PA.pdf 57 JASMR, 2015 Volume 4, Issue 1 Introduction We present the latest developments in the field of geomorphic coal-mine-land reclamation as applied to the design and construction of excess spoil fills or “valley fills” in steep-sloped terrain of Central Appalachia. We review concerns previously identified by technical staff of the US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) relating to the efficacy of the methodology in the region, and summarize a recently completed modeling study at West Virginia University (WVU) that addresses several of those concerns. This paper proposes a design process developed by WVU that could be used to apply geomorphic design principles to future reclamation in Appalachia and then presents a representative design from the WVU project. We conclude by supporting continued development of the technology and identifying additional issues arising from the WVU study that should be investigated. Background Problems Relating to the Traditional Method of Valley Fill Construction and the Proposed Geomorphic Solution Some of the most contentious issues related to coal surface mine reclamation surround the practice of mountaintop coal mining in the steep-slope topographic settings of Central Appalachia and the construction of excess spoil fills in valleys below the mine sites (Fig. 1). Chief among them include: the flattening of the ridge and valley landscape that often results; the burial and pollution of headwater streams and riparian zones during and after the construction of fills; and extensive disruption to the wide variety of biota unique to Appalachia. Proposed solutions vary from increasing environmental restrictions on surface mining in the region to the application of alternative approaches and methodologies to surface mining and reclamation (e.g. Michael et al., 2010; Sears et al., 2013, 2014; Russell et al., 2014; Quaranta et al., 2013). One approach to mine- land reclamation that has received keen interest over the last decade or two is the application of geomorphic principles to landform grading and stream restoration. Broadly speaking, the objective of geomorphic reclamation is to copy nature, i.

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