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DEP Earns National Mine Reclamation Award for Enhancing Safety, Boosting Local Economic Impact of ATV Trail While Restoring Part of Sproul State Forest

09/01/2017

Harrisburg, PA – A recent abandoned mine reclamation project by the Department of Environmental Protection with significant community and environmental benefits has been chosen by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) for its top honor: the 2017 Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation National Award.

The “Huling Branch AML Reclamation, ATV Recreation, and Watershed Improvement Project,” located in the heart of Sproul State Forest, enhanced the safety of the popular Whiskey Springs ATV trail and ride area, boosting recreation opportunities and the related regional economy. It also reduced acid mine drainage (AMD) in Huling Branch, a tributary to Kettle Creek, and restored forest wildlife habitat in an area left degraded by coal mining decades ago.

“We’re deeply honored by OSMRE’s recognition of our work and proud to make Pennsylvania a national model in mine reclamation,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “The Huling Branch project was one of the most extensive and complex surface mine reclamation projects we’ve ever done — and we’ve done many here in the commonwealth, where thousands of coal mines were abandoned before federal regulations required post-operation cleanup.”

The OSMRE AML Reclamation National Award honors the mission of the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, which imposed those regulations and established the federal AML reclamation program through a fee assessed on current coal production.

The award recognizes projects that restore the environment; bring health, safety, and economic benefits to the community; use innovative technical methods; and maximize the effectiveness of OSMRE funding.

The Huling Branch project restored a 103-acre mine site, where over 6,000 linear feet of highwalls exceeded 70 feet in height and abandoned coal mine spoil discharged AMD. Situated next to the Whiskey Springs ATV trail, the mine had attracted unauthorized use by ATV riders, leading to numerous accidents and injuries.

The reclamation project eliminated the mine hazards and restored a section of the popular 50-mile Whiskey Springs ATV trail, maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). ATV accidents have declined substantially.

The reclamation expands opportunities for ATV events, such as the Rattlesnake National Enduro, hosted locally by Brandywine Enduro Riders, which last year drew about 600 participants and contributed about $200,000 to the local economy.

Acid mine drainage from Huling Branch has impaired the lower portion of the Kettle Creek Watershed for decades. A passive water treatment system would be infeasible because of the remoteness of the mine site and very high acidity of the AMD. Taking a different approach, DEP incorporated into the soil 310,000 tons of waste lime — about 3,000 tons per acre — repurposed from a Bellefonte limestone quarry. Acidity levels entering the creek have since lowered by about 35 percent and are expected to continue to decline as the full effect of the alkaline addition is realized.

In addition, the project reforested 70 acres with 48,150 mixed native species tree seedlings and over 100 hybrid American Chestnuts donated by the American Chestnut Foundation.

The Huling Branch project was supported by approximately $9.3 million in federal AML funding and $1.2 million in Pennsylvania Growing Greener funds. 

Kettle Creek Watershed Association, Trout Unlimited, and DCNR partnered with DEP on the project. Support was high among community members, many of whom followed the construction progress through opportunities such as a site tour.
 
Contractors included L.R. Costanzo Company, Berner Construction, Confer Trucking, and Ron Rowles Energy.

The OSMRE AML Reclamation National Award honors the mission of the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, which imposed those regulations and established the federal AML reclamation program through a fee assessed on current coal production.

The award recognizes projects that restore the environment; bring health, safety, and economic benefits to the community; use innovative technical methods; and maximize the effectiveness of OSMRE funding.

DEP has earned the OSMRE national or regional AML Reclamation Award 10 out of the last 11 years.

MEDIA CONTACT: Deborah Klenotic, (717) 783-9954

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