Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012WV177B

Identifying Geomorphic Design Parameters to Improve Flood Control and Water Quality

Institute: West Virginia
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $65,649 Total Non-Federal Funds: $154,923

Principal Investigators: Leslie Hopkinson, Ben Mack, John Quaranta

Abstract: State and Federal regulations have been designed to control environmental impacts associated with mountaintop mining and valley fill construction. These regulations have resulted in geotechnically stable designs of valley fills and hydrologic water management. However, environmental concerns abound because of loss of headwater stream length, increased flooding risk, and degraded water quality. One promising innovative technique to lessen these serious impacts involves fluvial geomorphic landform design. While proven successful in semi-arid regions and in western Canada, this approach has not yet been utilized in West Virginia for surface mining reclamation. In 2010, WVU Civil and Environmental Engineering and the WV Water Research Institute began investigating fluvial geomorphic design for valley fill construction and mountain top mine reclamation. The research team is developing geomorphic landform designs for a specific valley fill site using the GeoFluv method and Natural Regrade computer software. A critical challenge identified through this work included the lack of design parameters calibrated from field studies specific to the state. Therefore, there is a need to develop and publish geomorphic design parameters for West Virginia in areas of high mining activity. This work will obtain field data needed to calibrate conceptual geomorphic designs for West Virginia valley fills. Specific objectives include: i) obtaining and quantifying characteristics of mature landforms in West Virginia; and ii) calibrating a conceptual geomorphic valley fill design, using data specific to Central Appalachia. Data needed to complete fluvial geomorphic design in WV will be measured in headwater systems. Gathered data will include: drainage density; slope profile shape, vegetation zones, channel characteristics (stream order, sinuosity, Rosgen Classification, bankfull width, average bankfull depth, width/depth ratio, cross-sectional area, longitudinal slope, A channel length, and bed particle size distribution), ridge to head of channel distance, baseflow discharge, and subridge angle. This analysis will be completed through both field work and GIS analysis and will result in a range of design parameters. These data will be used to calibrate a conceptual geomorphic design created through preliminary research. The default design criteria will be updated with site specific information that describes the southern coal fields. The conceptual design will be regenerated, and pair-wise comparisons will be completed between the original and calibrated designs. Through this project, we will provide evidence that the coal industry can design and reclaim future mines with reduced environmental impact, improved flood control, and improved water quality. Specifically, the work will result in a database of land profile information that can be utilized for future geomorphic designs.