Obama seeks to block record mountaintop removal permit

The Obama administration has come down hard on the process of mountain top removal and valley fill as currently regulated.    The Gazette, the Charleston, West Virginia newspaper, has a well-linked blog through which you can follow the process of permitting America’s coal mines under the new administration.   These are complicated issues with no easy answer.  I refer to it as the unstoppable force (need for coal) — meeting the unmovable object (enforcement of the popular regulatory process).

What happens when the coal companies are forced to permit mines, and on-site mitigation activities are no longer allowed?  RS thinks a need for 178,122 off-site credits for stream mitigation.  We are here to help.

Late last week — just before the Labor Day holiday — the Obama administration EPA issued a mountaintop removal bombshell: A major letter that blasts a whole host of problems with the largest strip-mining permit ever issued in the state of West Virginia.

EPA experts have concluded that the mine, as currently designed and permitted, would violate the federal Clean Water Act. They’ve urged the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend, revoke or modify the permit. In response, Corps lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers for a 30-day stay in legal proceedings over this permit, to give Corps staffers time to re-examine the project.

I’ve posted a copy of the EPA letter to the Corps here, and a copy of the Corps’ legal motion here. The letter was dated last Thursday and the legal motion was filed the following day.

In the five-page letter, EPA experts express grave concerns about the mine’s “potential to degrade downstream water quality, and to cause or contribute to potential excursions of West Virginia’s narrative water quality standards.”

EPA also cautioned that “additional valley fill minimization techniques such as further backstacking material on-site where appropriate, inclusion of sidehill fills with stream relocations, or other design modifications to ameliorate water quality impacts need serious consideration” from the company.

And, EPA said that “scientific and field observations strongly suggest that compensatory mitigation measures heretofore accepted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, such as on-site stream creation, may not result in functional replacement with specific performance criteria.”

Read on for more on the EPA letter …

via Blogs @ The Charleston Gazette – » Obama seeks to block record mountaintop removal permit.

VIDEO: Carbonton Dam river trip before removal…set to music!

Here’s a short music video I made following a preliminary reconnaissance trip on the Deep River hosted by Restoration Systems for the NC Division of Water Quality. Three years later, in 2006, we removed the Carbonton Dam in order to restore the area through which we are traveling from impoundment to natural river. The lowered impoundment revealed rapids and channel features not seen since the early 1800s. The newly restored river has subsequently thrived, including the re-establishment of the federal listed Threatened and Endangered Cape Fear Shiner, which was reported nationwide.

RS gets a visit from Marc Sudol

On April 10th, 2008, RS had an important visit from Dr. Mark Sudol, the Chief of the Regulatory Branch at the Headquarters of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Dr. Sudol oversees the Corps wetland permitting program and works on policy and guidance at the national level. This was a unique and welcomed opportunity for RS to showcase our projects to someone with real influence to direct policy.  Dr. Sudol visited Causey Farm, Carbonton Dam, Bear Creek and Holly Grove.


Causey Farm


Causey Farm


Carbonton Dam


Bear Creek


Holly Grove


Bear Creek

Resoration Systems Branches Out to Maryland

On September 18, 2006, Worth and I went to Maryland to restore a thirty acre wetland site; the site will be used to offset detrimental impacts that will be caused by an upcoming expansion to the Salisbury Airport.  The site is about twenty miles SSW of Salisbury Maryland on the scenic Eastern Shore.


Project Manager Worth Creech points to the Salisbury Maryland Wetland Restoration Site; it is roughly thirty acres and lies just beyond the tree line to the left.


Gary Wilkerson excavates a ditch so that bentonite fabric can be installed.  The fabric is used to help plug the ditches in order to create a wetland.   


Now that the fabric is installed, Gary begins filling up the excavated trench; Worth ensures that the fabric remains vertical so that maximum water blockage can be obtained.  The bentonite fabric is called Voltex DS and the Salisbury site is the first time Restoration Systems has ever used the material.  Bentonite has a unique property that makes it expand when saturated, making it the perfect material for ditch plugging.   


Worth and Joe Berg, the designer of the project, look on as Gary puts some finishing touches on the plug.  You can barely see some extruding Voltex fabric below Joe’s feet.  


Worth and Preston work late into the evening to complete the last plug on the site.  Several months before construction, ground wells were installed so that water levels could be monitored and recorded.  There were a total of thirteen plugs on the site and everyone expects the water level to rise significantly after the completion of the construction.



Now Showing at the Lowell Dam…

I drove down to the Lowell Dam, uh, former Lowell Dam, to see how the restoration of the river and dam site were progressing.

Here is a panorama photo of the dam in the summer of 2004:


And here is site of the former dam today from left to right…




I apoligize for the changes in perspective (and we are working on the ability to enlarge photos) but I think you can get the picture. It looks pretty good. The river is restoring.

Here are some more photos. Remember, the dam was 11 feet high and upstream was an 11 foot deep lake — for two centuries.