Recognized Projects

Taylor Creek Impoundment

Kempton Refuse and AMD

The Kempton Refuse and AMD AML Project is located near the historic coal mining communities of Kempton, Maryland and Thomas, West Virginia. This site is situated just outside of Kempton and approximately four miles north of the town of Thomas, off U.S. Route 219. Proximity to state and national recreational and historic areas, as well as a continental watershed divide, made this project a prime candidate for addressing health, safety, and environmental reclamation. The project is located near the gateway to the Potomac Highlands Region of West Virginia. Nearby recreation areas include Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley Resort State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, and the Monongahela National Forest. The Fairfax Stone, less than one mile to the southeast, is a surveyor’s marker and boundary stone. It marks the headspring of the North Branch Potomac River, which delineates the state boundary between Maryland and West Virginia as it meanders its way eastward, eventually flowing into the Potomac River and through the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. The project area drains into the headwaters of this river.

Project Start: August 13, 2007
Project Complete: October 31, 2009
Construction Cost: $2,357,159, including $439,292 in Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative funding
Contractor: Cowgirl Up Inc.

Kempton, before reclamation.
Kempton, before reclamation
Kempton, after reclamation.
Kempton, after reclamation

Three Fork Creek Watershed Restoration Project

Three Fork Creek is situated in West Virginia’s Preston and Taylor counties, with a drainage area of 103 square miles (Map 1). The headwaters are predominantly located in Preston County, with minor contributing tributaries originating in Monongalia and Taylor counties at elevations exceeding 2,200 feet. The mainstem is located in both Preston (7.5 miles) and Taylor (11 miles) counties, formed by the confluence of Birds Creek, Squires Creek, and Fields Creek in western Preston County. The stream then flows southwest before emptying into the Tygart Valley River (in the Monongahela River basin) in the city of Grafton, Taylor County, at an elevation of 1,000 feet. The chief tributaries of Three Fork Creek are Birds Creek (consisting of the North and South Fork), Fields Creek, Raccoon Creek, Squires Creek, and Laurel Run.

With the exception of Laurel Run and Fields Creek, acid mine drainage (AMD) generated from extensive pre-SMCRA underground mining had degraded the chief tributaries of Three Fork Creek. As a result, the entire length of the Three Fork Creek mainstem was mostly devoid of aquatic life. The effects of AMD impairment extended from Three Fork Creek downstream into the Tygart Valley River. In 2004 the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) determined that Three Fork Creek was the second highest contributor of AMD in the Monongahela River basin. When localized rain storms occurred in the Three Fork Creek watershed during low flow conditions, acid slugs were pushed downstream, sometimes causing fish kills in the Tygart Valley River. High concentrations of acid and iron carried by Three Fork Creek from abandoned coal mines created a plume in the river through the town of Grafton.

Three Fork Creek flows into the Tygart Valley River at Grafton, approximately 2.25 miles downstream of Tygart Lake, a 1,750-acre reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE). Both the lake and the lake tailwaters are used extensively for boating and fishing. Additional recreational facilities in the vicinity of Tygart Lake include Tygart Lake State Park and Grafton City Park (located immediately below Tygart Lake Dam and includes a boat launch). Each attraction draws recreational users to the vicinity, providing a boost to the economy of Grafton, as well as providing high visibility of the confluence of Three Fork Creek with the Tygart Valley River to those passing by. WVDNR regularly stocks trout in the tailwater section, and stocks various other fish species in the lake and tailwater section.

In addition to the information detailed below, the high visibility, impact to aquatic life, recreation, and local economy, and increased loadings for water treatment facilities downstream made Three Fork Creek a prime candidate for restoration by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML).

Project Start: July 19, 2010
Project Complete: April 15, 2011
Construction Cost: $750,491.15
Contractor: Breakaway, Inc.

Birds Creek showing evidence of Acid Mine Drainage
Birds Creek, Pre-Reclamation
Raccoon Creek prior to in-stream dosing treatment.
Raccoon Creek prior to in-stream dosing treatment.
Birds Creek, after AML reclamation, now runs clear.
Birds Creek, Post-Reclamation
Raccoon Creek after in-stream dosing treatment.
Raccoon Creek after in-stream dosing treatment.

Carswell Eroding Refuse

The Carswell Eroding Refuse project is located along Laurel Branch in the small coal mining community of Carswell Hollow, just north of the Town of Kimball, in West Virginia’s most southerly county of McDowell. This neighborhood is situated about 4 miles east of the City of Welch, the county seat, along US Route 52, and 12 miles north of Tazewell County, Virginia. The project area drains into Elkhorn Creek, which eventually flows into the Tug Fork River as it meanders its way westward to create the state boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia.

Carswell, like so many other southern West Virginia communities, is inexorably linked to coal mining activities as they progressed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During these periods, many of the mining operators constructed company homes adjacent to or even on top of coal refuse areas due to the severe shortage of flat land in the steep hollows, so often found in this part of West Virginia. Gradually, however, problems began to develop that ultimately threatened both properties and lives.

One such problem arose in the Carswell and Kimball communities after repeated flooding events in July 2000 and May 2002. During these events, high stream flows began eroding the toe of a 1940’s coal refuse embankment near the mouth of Laurel Branch in Carswell Hollow. As the flooding progressed, two sections of the cut-stone retaining wall collapsed, causing some of the material to spill into the creek channel, thereby impeding its flow. Immediately following the flooding, the West Virginia Division of Highways removed numerous pieces of collapsed cutstone and enough of the refuse material that had fallen into the creek channel, as well as additional debris that had washed downstream, to temporarily restore its flow.

Coupled with the looming potential for catastrophic property damage along Laurel Branch, located nearby was another abandoned mine lands site, Site #2, which consisted of a 20-acre refuse pile. This pile had steep slopes and the easily erodable material was very unstable. Numerous homes as well as a public road located at the pile’s toe were in danger of being flooded or destroyed by a landslide, should one develop. Local residents and abandoned mine lands officials alike were concerned that this site could also cause serious damage to downslope properties should these issues go unresolved.

Project Start: January 16, 2006
Project Complete: May 15, 2007
Construction Cost: $2,542,182
Contractor: Green Mountain Company

This photo shows one section of the failing cut stone retaining wall partially blocking stream flow along Laurel Branch. Further collapse of the wall would have blocked stream flow causing nearby homes to be flooded or even destroyed if the refuse embankment itself were to fail.
One section of the failing cut stone retaining wall partially blocking stream flow along Laurel Branch.
This photo shows the abandoned, partially vegetated 20 acre refuse area with its highly erodable and unstable outslopes.
Abandoned, partially vegetated 20 acre refuse area with its highly erodable and unstable outslopes.
This photo shows the repaired stone wall after it was covered with high tensile-strength steel mesh. The entire wall is now stable and safe.
Repaired stone wall after it was covered with high tensile-strength steel mesh.
This photo shows the reclaimed 20 acre refuse area after being regraded and vegetated. This work eliminated the potential threat of flooding or a devastating landslide.
Reclaimed 20 acre refuse area after being regraded and vegetated. This work eliminated the potential threat of flooding or a devastating landslide.

Pendelton Creek Strip

The Pendleton Creek Strip AML project involved perennial surface drainage entering abandoned underground mine workings through vertical openings in the streambed, where the flows reversed direction and amplified an existing large drainage in the city of Thomas, West Virginia. In addition, there were 200 linear feet of highwall and three dangerous impoundments that required backfilling.

The Pendleton Creek Strip project utilized impervious sealing of the stream capture areas and construction of restored and relocated stream channels to convey the surface drainage along its original pre-mining path.


Project Start: July 27, 2010
Project Complete: June 9, 2011
Construction Cost: $763,450
Contractor: Eastern Arrow Corp