State Water Resources Research Institute Program (WRRI)

Details for Project ID 2012WV200G, 2012

Modeling the hydrologic response in surface mining watersheds with redesigned reclamation practices

Institute: West Virginia
USGS Grant Number: G12AP20156
Start Date: 2012-09-01 End Date: 2015-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $224,690 Total Non-Federal Funds: $224,802

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. The proposed research will explore the dynamics of extreme hydro-meteorological events in the southern coalfields of West Virginia by investigating geomorphic reclamation approaches applied to surface mining methods. Specific objectives include: i) generating geomorphic valley fill designs; ii) determining the hydrologic function of a redesigned valley fill site in southern West Virginia; iii) predicting differences in floodplain mapping downstream of redesigned reclamation, resulting from extreme meteorological events; and, iv) predicting the hydrologic response of watersheds with redesigned reclamation at the landscape scale. Alternative valley fill designs will be completed for a valley fill under construction using geomorphic landform design principles: i) external drainage with contours; ii) internal drainage with ephemeral streams; and, iii) internal drainage with perennial streams. The hydrologic response of a valley fill under construction in southern West Virginia will be compared to redesigned conditions. The hydrographs created for extreme events will be used to assess the flooding potential resulting from the redesigned valley fills. HEC-RAS, HEC-GeoRAS, and ArcGIS will be used to produce inundation maps downstream of the study site. Using HSPF, the hydrologic response from different surface mining reclamation techniques will be examined. Through this research, we will explore the dynamics of extreme hydro-meteorological events in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. The intention is to add to the scientific body of knowledge for geomorphic design application in surface mining reclamation in Central Appalachia. The information gained from this research will allow alternative valley fill designs to be considered while obeying reclamation regulations. Alternative valley fill designs modeled as part of this research will allow better stormwater handling and an increased likelihood of improved water quality after reclamation.