Hydrologist and Project Manager Keenan Storrar along with Coal Program staff oversaw the reclamation of the Horizon coal mine, a bond forfeiture site in Carbon County. It took roughly three months to remove the coal mine’s five-acre footprint and re-contour the site to match the surrounding landscape. Reclamation involved demolishing and sealing the portals, re-establishing the stream channels through the facility and parking fill pads, and applying topsoil, mulch and seed to the final contoured slopes.
From the time the mine ceased operations in 2012 until the bond was forfeited in 2017, the site had fallen into disrepair. Coal waste covered the facility and loadout areas and was piled in berms around the site. The temporary portal seals installed when the mine was idled, had been broken into and posed a significant hazard to the public. Most of the culverts and ditches at the site were blocked and no longer functioning as designed causing significant erosion across the site. While the sediment pond at the lower end of the site captured most of the sediment erosion and suspended coal fines, the pond was nearly full and the owner was no longer sampling and reporting discharges, a direct violation of the Clean Water Act.
The site sits at the junction of Jewkes and Portal canyons. Once the portals were demolished and sealed, over 20,000 cubic yards of fill were excavated and backfilled against the surrounding cut slopes to reestablish the channels at the bottom of the canyons. Topsoil recovered from stockpiles was placed on the final grade of the hill slopes above the rip rapped hardened channels. Straw mulch was spread and incorporated into the soil by pocking the surface. Pocking is the process of creating large divots in the soil that aid in soil stability and water retention. Two seed mixes, riparian and shrub/grassland, were spread just before the area received the much needed rain and snow that fell in early October. Hopefully in the spring the site will have a high germination success rate and the native plants will help the site blend into the surrounding landscape.
Coal Program Reclamation Specialist Priscilla Burton initiated working with the Utah State Prison horticulture program to grow native plant starts that will be planted next fall for additional vegetative cover. More information will follow on this beneficial program and opportunity.