Raccoon Creek highlights success of Ohio’s Acid Mine Drainage Program

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NELSONVILLE, Ohio — The success of the Ohio Acid Mine Drainage Program was recognized in a celebration of partnerships by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management.

The event was held at the Raccoon Creek Kern Hollow site — an acid mine drainage treatment system which is representative of similar water quality restoration projects in impacted southeastern Ohio watersheds.

The event featured ODNR Director Sean Logan and a number of local partners including Natalie Kruse, who is from the Ohio University and serves as vice chair for the Raccoon Creek Partnership, and Raina Fulks, watershed coordinator with the Leading Creek Improvement Committee.

Since 1997, ODNR and its partners have restored pH levels and aquatic life in more than 160 miles of impacted streams. These streams now offer positive benefits for local agriculture, fisheries, recreation, tourism and quality of life.

“This program is a great example of what can happen when all those involved avoid pointing fingers and instead collectively agree to get the job done,” said Logan. “These partnerships have returned once-damaged natural areas to conditions that will supporta diversity of wildlife and will welcome all those who value access to Ohio’s natural beauty.”

Acid Mine Drainage

Through the Acid Mine Drainage program, the division provides funding and implements construction projects to restore watersheds impacted by old mining sites closed under conditions which no longer meet current pollution prevention standards. These mines are considered “abandoned” and are eligible for state and federal reclamation funds.

Stringent federal regulations were passed in 1977 to prevent the repeat of these pollution issues on currently mined lands.

“As a direct result of restoration efforts, the Acid Mine Drainage program has returned biodiversity to portions of Monday Creek, Sunday Creek, Raccoon Creek and Huff Run — places which haven’t provided quality aquatic habitat for generations,” said Chief John Husted, ODNR Division of Mineral Resources Management.

“Our challenges have been daunting, but because of our watershed partners, such as the Raccoon Creek Partnership, and local citizens, we can celebrate the successful improvement of water quality in Ohio’s coal region.”

The East Branch Raccoon Creek Phase II site reflects the necessary partnership between local agencies and ODNR to address acid mine drainage projects.

Coordinators

Watershed coordinators in five southeastern Ohio watersheds are jointly funded by ODNR, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local sponsors. Coordinators serve on the front-line of restoration efforts — identifying and solving nonpoint source water quality problems and engaging in outreach and education activities within their respective watersheds.

Raccoon Creek. The Raccoon Creek Partnership is a diverse group comprised of representatives from ODNR, Ohio EPA, local soil and water conservation districts, Ohio University, Ohio Valley RC&D District, Wayne National Forest and local citizens.

More than 23 miles of Raccoon Creek has been restored to date. Over the past decade, 10 projects totaling $8.5 million have resulted in the elimination of 2.5 tons per day of acid.

The Raccoon Creek watershed is 680 square miles and is located in Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson and Vinton counties. It is 112 miles long and passes through heavily forested areas including portions of Zaleski State Forest and the Wayne National Forest.

In addition to the Raccoon Creek Partnership, another watershed group, the Leading Creek Improvement Committee in nearby Meigs County, will be undertaking four Acid Mine Drainage projects in Thomas Fork, a tributary of Leading Creek.

The work will be partially funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because the stream is badly polluted, it is expected to take up to four years to complete restoration efforts for Thomas Fork.

Projects

There are a number of restoration projects underway in other watersheds including Monday Creek (Athens, Hocking and Perry counties), Huff Run (Carroll and Tuscarawas counties) and Sunday Creek (Athens, Hocking, Morgan and Perry counties). Watershed partners have assisted ODNR by leveraging more than $4 million in outside funding for the restoration of Acid Mine Drainage impacted streams.

ODNR continues to study watersheds impacted by acid mine drainage for potential restoration. The Division of Mineral Resources Management provides for the safe and environmentally sound development and restoration of mineral and fossil fuel extraction sites.

For more information, visit http://www.ohiodnr.com.

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