Discussion: View Thread

  • 1.  Stream Protection Rule

    Posted 02-24-2017 04:56 PM
    This week, the White House officially signed a bill to eliminate the Stream Protection Rule issued by the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining in December 2016.  The rule was a comprehensive update to a number of regulations tied to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, such as how to implement the Act's provisions of 'preventing material damage to the hydrologic balance' outside of a mine permit area and expanded monitoring requirements as a condition of permitting.  

    Notwithstanding the politics surrounding the issue, the rule's elimination will have lasting implications to be addressed by engineers.  The unusual use of the Congressional Review Act to eliminate it means that no substantially similar rule can be introduced in the future.  Those in the stream restoration business would do well to find effective ways to deal with mine spoil and acid drainage.

    Steven Splitek, P.E., PMP, ENV SP
    Denver, CO

  • 2.  RE: Stream Protection Rule

    Posted 02-27-2017 08:39 PM
    One reason that the Stream Protection Rule was developed was to minimize filling of headwaters of streams, especially at the valley fills found at most mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia. Headwaters of streams are important for downstream biotic health.

    The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has instead promoted the use of geomorphic reclamation, where landforms and drainages are shaped to mimic natural geomorphology, including creation of headwater areas in post-reclamation landforms. Nicholas Bugosh, geomorphologist, has developed a process for designing such landforms and drainages, which he call GeoFluv, as well as a computer program called Natural Regrade to aid in such design.

    Links to several OSMRE conferences on this topic can be found at: TDT Geomorphic Reclamation.

    In steep, mountainous areas, geomorphic reclamation sometimes requires more room than standard valley fills, but at least in semi-arid New Mexico, where the approach has been used at several active and abandoned coal mines, the result has been landforms that are less likely to wash out than standard terrace/planar slope landforms and that initial research seems to indicate reduces erosion rates over nearby reference areas. 

    John Kretzmann P.E., M.ASCE
    Program Manager
    Energy, Mineral and Natural Resources Department
    Santa Fe NM

  • 3.  RE: Stream Protection Rule

    Posted 03-02-2017 10:59 AM
    I was extremely disappointed that the stream protection rule has been overturned.  My father, who passed away last year spent two decades developing the scientific and economic justification for the rule. An essay on the ecological impacts of mountaintop mining can be found in An Appalachian Tragedy by Ayers, Hager and Little, (1998). I am encouraged by the article in the Feb. 17 issue of Science that predicts that the rule change is unlikely to result in a perceptible increase Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia.  Fortunately, energy economics has pretty much done in Eastern Coal.

    Eric Loucks P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Austin TX