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Iowa Agriculture Department Honored for Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation

Iowa Agriculture Department Honored for Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's Mines and Minerals Bureau has received national recognition for its outstanding work in reclaiming abandoned mine land (AML), specifically with a focus on restoring agricultural land. The Patrick AML site, located six miles southeast of Eddyville in Wapello County, is a prime example of the bureau's exceptional efforts. This project has successfully transformed abandoned coal mining land into productive agricultural land, suitable for haying, livestock grazing, and wildlife habitat.

The Patrick AML project encompassed several vital agricultural reclamation activities, including:

• Mitigation of 1,379 feet of highwall (steep, exposed cliffs from mining), making previously unsafe land suitable for agricultural use.

• Remediation of 4.17 acres of clogged stream and clogged stream land, ensuring improved water quality for agricultural purposes.

• Cleanup of 11 acres of dangerous piles and embankments, which posed hazards to agriculture and land management.

• Reclamation of 15.8 acres of spoil area (coal waste), converting it into fertile agricultural land.

• Rehabilitation of 3 pit ponds, creating water resources for agricultural needs.This project involved significant excavation work, permanent seeding, and wetland fringe seeding, all geared towards enhancing the agricultural ecosystem in the local watersheds and waterways. The improved soil health resulting from these efforts directly benefits agricultural activities, while the reclaimed land provides valuable opportunities for agricultural enterprises, including crop production and livestock farming.

The success of the project was made possible through valuable partnerships with organizations like Pathfinders RC&D, Hammes Bulldozing, and the Wapello County Soil and Water Conservation District, which played a crucial role in securing project grants and garnering community support. The project, with a total cost of $987,977, was funded by the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement through the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation program and the Watershed Cooperative Agreement grant programs.

The Mines and Minerals Bureau's AML program in Iowa, which began in 1983, is marking its 40th year in 2023. It traces its origins to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, which mandated the removal of hazards and the stabilization of coal mines post-mining. Currently, there are more than 300 AML sites covering 13,000 acres in Iowa, primarily located in several counties.

These sites may contain hazardous features like piles, embankments, highwalls, pit ponds, and acidic soils that require grading and neutralization for agricultural reclamation. While 120 sites have already undergone successful agricultural reclamation through federal grants and voluntary landowner participation, approximately 180 sites in Iowa are still awaiting agricultural revitalization, promising further growth and prosperity in the state's agriculture sector.


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