OUR STORY

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[Articles in the News] [Dream Contest]

Copyrightę Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, Inc. 2000 through 2016
CELEBRATING OUR 16th YEAR!!


 

BACKGROUND
The Coal Creek watershed is an undiscovered jewel with an area of 36 square miles surrounding the towns of Lake City, Briceville, Fraterville, and Beech Grove. If you have been around the I-75 bridge over the Clinch River following a storm, you may have noticed a cloudy-colored creek discharging into the Clinch River upstream of the bridge. This creek is Coal Creek. One likely cause for the cloudy water is runoff and seepage from abandoned mined lands (AML) within the Coal Creek watershed upstream of Lake City.

What are some of the potential riches that Coal Creek holds? One indication of the potential of its people lies in the legacy left by their ancestors. The History of Coal Creek section of this web site describes how people in this watershed have survived the Coal Creek War of the 1890s and catastrophic mine explosions in 1902 and 1911. Anybody descended from past generations of people who lived and died in this watershed must be of hardy stock.

Another indication of the potential of this area lies in its geographic setting. Coal Creek flows into the Clinch River about 5 miles downstream of Norris Dam. The tailwater of Norris Dam on the Clinch River is the most popular trout fishery in Tennessee. Fishermen want to catch wild trout, not stocked trout, but spawning habitat is limited in the Clinch River. The Coal Creek watershed contains about 30 miles of potential trout spawning streams. As a result, the possibilities are endless for 30 miles of potential trout spawning streams connected to a world-class trout fishery through which interstate I-75 passes.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS FROM COAL MINE DRAINAGE (CMD)
Current coal mining operations must meet stringent discharge and reclamation requirements as mandated by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977. Current coal mining is not our concern. Coal mine drainage (CMD), from abandoned underground works that were mined prior to the enactment of current environmental regulations, is our concern. Coal mining in Coal Creek dates back to the mid-1800's and there are numerous unreclaimed surface and underground mines in the Coal Creek watershed.

In the late 1970s, baseline environmental studies were performed in the Coal Creek watershed as part of a government study in the Appalachian coal fields in support of SMCRA. Data developed during this baseline study showed that although CMD in the watershed was not acidic, it did contain moderately high concentrations of iron and other metals. Since that time, data on water quality in Coal Creek and its tributaries is scarce. Concerns about the on-going environmental impacts of CMD in Coal Creek seem to have been forgotten.

In many areas of the country, CMD is acidic. When CMD is acidic, alkaline material must be added to neutralize the water before iron and other dissolved metals can be removed by aeration, precipitation, and sedimentation. We are fortunate that CMD in the Coal Creek watershed is already alkaline. After aeration of this alkaline CMD, iron and other metals precipitate. Unfortunately, this aeration, precipitation, and eventual deposition is now occurring in Coal Creek, its tributaries, and the Clinch River.

More than 7,500 miles of Appalachian streams are impacted by CMD. As a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists CMD from abandoned mined lands as the most severe water pollution problem in the coal fields of the Appalachian Mountains. CMD can kill fish and aquatic insects, stunt plant growth, deteriorate concrete and metal structures, raise water treatment costs, and discolor stream banks and beds.

REASONS FOR REMEDIATION OF CMD IN COAL CREEK
According to the baseline data from the 1970s, Coal Creek degrades the Clinch River by adding significant amounts of sediment and iron precipitate, especially following storm events. Improved water quality in Coal Creek will mean improved water quality in the Clinch River. Trout from the Clinch River already migrate into Coal Creek and its tributaries (i.e. Beech Grove Fork, Slatestone Creek, etc.) when water conditions are suitable. If trout can survive in this impacted environment now, just think what kind of habitat Coal Creek could become if CMD sites are remediated.

Are you skeptical about Coal Creek becoming trout spawning habitat? If so, go to www.ctcnet.net/scrip and read about a local effort in western Pennsylvania to restore the Stonycreek and Little Conemaugh Rivers from over 150 years of CMD impacts. You may be surprised to read about lodges, fishing guide services, and rafting. Go to www.thewilds.org and read about 10,000 acres of reclaimed mined land in Ohio which now serves as a nature preserve where African, Asian, and North American species roam freely. Herds of rhino, gazelle, antelope, zebra, camel, giraffe, bison, and visitors to The Wilds enjoy the benefits of reclaimed mined land. Go to www.aep.com/environment/RecLand and read about 30,000 acres of reclaimed mined land in Ohio which is now a public fishing, camping, and hunting area. Over 1,500 acres of water cover the reclaimed mined land in the form of wetlands, streams, lakes, and ponds. Over 100,000 people per year now use this ReCreation Land free of charge.

METHODS FOR REMEDIATION OF CMD IN THE COAL CREEK WATERSHED
As stated previously, CMD discharging from the abandoned underground mines in Coal Creek contains excess alkalinity, which is good because it allows for the precipitation of iron and other metals by oxidation with no chemicals required for treatment. If we install wetlands and/or settling pools at the discharge locations from the abandoned mines, natural oxidation/aeration will allow the iron and other metals to precipitate and deposit before the water enters the streams. It sounds simple because it is. Implementation of a plan is more difficult.

Specifically, the baseline data from the late 1970s show that the environmental impacts of CMD in Coal Creek are significant. We need new data to determine the current environmental impacts. We also need to identify locations where CMD emerges from abandoned underground mines. Finally, we need to identify land owners at these CMD discharge locations and offer our assistance to design remedial measures. Only then will we be ready to perform actual CMD remediation.

AVAILABILITY OF FUNDING
Active coal mining companies pay a fee to create a pool of money that is administered by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to reclaim pre-1977 abandoned mined lands. In the past, this money has been used to solve problems on AML sites that create a hazard to the public such as landslides, subsidence, open portals, and shafts. OSM used sound logic in allocating funds to protect public safety because Mother Nature eventually reclaims most abandoned surface mine sites through natural revegetation. Mother Nature needs some help with CMD. As a result, a new Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative of OSM is now making money available to local watershed groups for CMD reclamation projects. In order to receive money for CMD reclamation, a non-profit group needs to organize and administer the reclamation efforts.

OUR INITIATIVE
The Coal Creek Clean Stream Initiative (CCCSI) was established with a single goal:

Make streams in the Coal Creek watershed suitable habitat for spawning trout.

CCCSI is a non-profit organization in partnership with other groups/agencies who share our single goal.  We will have to do our homework in identifying problem areas through the collection of data and then designing remedial measures to address the problem areas. Data collection and design will need to be performed in cooperation with the people who own the land and the people who live in the watershed. We must do our homework before we will be eligible for funds from the Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative for actual construction.

WHY YOU SHOULD VOLUNTEER TO HELP
We each have different interests and motivations for what we do. Maybe you live in the Coal Creek watershed, you remember the legacy left by your ancestors, and you want to improve conditions to leave your own legacy. Maybe you like to catch trout in the Clinch River and you want to help improve water quality in the Clinch River. Maybe you dream of adding 30 miles of trout spawning streams to support the Clinch River fishery.

Or maybe you just want to invest in a watershed that is rich in tradition that others seem to have overlooked.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
Read about CCCSI on this web page. If you are interested in joining CCCSI, there are no monetary dues or membership fees. Instead, you must share our single goal and be willing to donate your time and efforts to the cause. If you want to be a volunteer, e-mail confirmation of your support and any comments to
bthacker2@coalcreekaml.com or send us a letter addressed to CCCSI, P.O. Box 31707, Knoxville, TN 37930-1707.  If you have any experiences/stories/ photographs regarding Coal Creek, include them in your response. These letters and e-mail responses will be essential documentation to show public support to qualify for grant money from OSM at the appropriate time. Tell other interested parties about CCCSI and ask them to respond also.

Progress reports will be posted on this web page including a listing of new partners and people who volunteer to join our initiative. When assistance is needed for specific efforts, we will ask for volunteers. For example, public education is a determining factor in obtaining funds from OSM. To inform the public of the problem and our first initiative, Saturday, April 29, 2000 was Coal Creek Watershed Day 2000.  

[Home] [Master Plan] [Map] [Photo Gallery]
[Bank Stabilization Projects]
[Deadwood Removal Days] [Discovery Day 2000] [Scrape, Paint & Clean Day 2000
[Historic Fraterville Mine Disaster Field Trip 2001] [Fraterville Mine Disaster 100th Anniversary]
[Coal Creek War and Mining Disasters] [Mine Reclamation Lessons]
[CMD] [Economic Benefits] [Motor Discovery Trail] [Historic Cemeteries]
[Partners] [Schools in Watershed] [Mark the Trail Day]
[Awards] [Coal Creek Health Days]
[Briceville School History Field Trips] [Ghost Stories]
[Trout Stuff] [Join Us] [Eastern Coal Region Roundtable]
[Articles in the News] [Dream Contest]

Copyrightę Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, Inc. 2000 through 2016
CELEBRATING OUR 16th YEAR!!