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Impact of coal surface mining and reclamation on suspended sediment in three Ohio watersheds

Bonta, J.V.
Journal of the American Water Resources Association 2000 v.36 no.4 pp. 869-887
coal, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, soil, surface mining, suspended sediment, vegetation, watersheds, Ohio
Prior to PL95-87 little research had been conducted to determine the impacts of mining and reclamation practices on sediment concentrations and yields on a watershed scale. Furthermore, it was unknown whether sediment yield and other variables would return to undisturbed levels after reclamation. Therefore, three small watersheds, with differing lithologies and soils, were monitored for runoff and suspended sediment concentrations during three phases of watershed disturbances: undisturbed watershed condition, mining and reclamation disturbances, and post-reclaimed condition. Profound increases in suspended-sediment concentrations, load rates, and yields due to mining and reclamation activities, and subsequent drastic decreases after reclamation were documented. Even with increases in runoff potential, reductions in suspended-sediment concentrations and load rates to below or near undisturbed-watershed levels is possible by using the mulch-crimping technique and by removing diversions. Maximum concentrations and load rates occurred during times of active disturbances that exposed loose soil and spoil to high-intensity rains. Sediment concentrations remained elevated compared with the undisturbed watershed when diversions were not well maintained and overtopped, and when they were not removed for final reclamation. Diversions are useful for vegetation establishment, but should be maintained until they are removed for final reclamation after good vegetative cover is established.