Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship receives national recognition for Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig congratulated the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Mines and Minerals Bureau for receiving the Interior States Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Reclamation Award this week from the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) within the United States Department of the Interior.
The Department’s Mines and Minerals Bureau took honors for their efforts to reclaim the Patrick site located six miles southeast of Eddyville in Wapello County.
“This project is an excellent example of taking abandoned coal mine ground and turning it back into working land suitable for haying, livestock grazing or wildlife habitat. I am proud of our talented team of conservation professionals within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Mines and Minerals Bureau who are very passionate about this important and impactful work,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “More than 120 sites over the past 40 years have been reclaimed and this work improves water quality and bolsters soil health. Thanks to our productive partnership with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, we will continue to work with landowners and other partners to make even more progress in the years ahead on the nearly 180 sites left to reclaim.”
The Patrick AML project included the mitigation of 1,379 feet of highwall (steep, exposed cliffs left over from mining), 4.17 acres of clogged stream and clogged stream land, 11 acres of dangerous piles and embankments, 15.8 acres of spoil area (coal waste) and three pit ponds. In total, the project included approximately 381,000 cubic yards of excavation, 37.6 acres of permanent seeding and nearly eight acres of wetland fringe seeding. Reclamation of the site fosters more stable ecosystems in the local watersheds and waterways to improve soil health, while providing more opportunities for recreation, grazing and economic activity.
Strong partnerships with Pathfinders RC&D, Hammes Bulldozing and the Wapello County Soil and Water Conservation District helped secure project grants and rally community support. The $987,977 project was funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement through the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation program and the Watershed Cooperative Agreement grant programs.
A video showcasing the Patrick site reclamation project is available at this link.
Underground coal mining began in Iowa as early as the 1840s with coal production peaking around 1917. The federal government passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, which required companies to remove hazards and stabilize coal mines after they finished mining. This legislation paved the way for the Department’s AML program, which began in 1983 and is celebrating its 40th year in 2023. Iowa has more than 300 AML sites covering 13,000 acres, located primarily in Davis, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe, Van Buren and Wapello counties. AML sites may include dangerous piles, embankments, highwalls, pit ponds and bare acidic soils that need to be graded and neutralized for reclamation. To date, 120 sites have been reclaimed through federally funded grants and voluntary landowner participation. There are about 180 sites awaiting reclamation in Iowa.
Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship