U.S. Department of the Interior

Graphic of trees and lake scenery.



AML Projects and Their Associated Economic Impacts:

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden stands near where some of the nation’s first coal mines began operations in the late 1700’s. The unique site encompasses OSMRE’s entire mission in one small area. It is home to an abandoned mine land site. It is home to an active mine site. It is also the product of a private and public partnership dedicated to cleaning up the abandoned mine site in order to create the Garden.

The Garden is also a role model for how people with creative ideas to address environmental hazards can approach the government for help while building something for good. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement provided not only environmental expertise, technical assistance, and funding for the project, but also advice on how Garden supporters might obtain the necessary permits to mine and utilize coal left on the old mine site to help fund all of the other activities.

The product of more than 25 years of ongoing effort to bring the project to fruition, the Garden opened its doors to the public in August 2014. When fully complete, the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, located 20 minutes west of the city, will include 18 distinct gardens, five diverse woodland experiences, an amphitheater for outdoor concerts and performances, an event center and a botanic research facility.

Aerial View of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Aerial View of Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

Stream in Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Stream in Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

Watch a video about the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden:

Lower Rock Creek Watershed Restoration Project, McCreary County, Kentucky and Tennessee

The McCreary project required a ten year commitment among four state agencies, eight Federal agencies, and a non-profit outdoor advocacy group to clean up the damage from acid mine drainage that rendered several miles of Lower Rock Creek sterile of aquatic life.

The project covered four locations in Kentucky and Tennessee. Lower Rock Creek stretches from Kentucky's Pickett State Park, through the Daniel Boone National Forest, and into the Big South National Recreation area. Rock Creek is also home to more than 40 portals leading to hundred year old underground mines, and eight mine refuse dumps. Those killed aquatic life and limited the fresh water available for land animals. Rock Creek was the largest contributor of acid mine drainage to the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River until recently.

A wide ranging project carried out through the entire system reduced the monthly acidic load in the water by 99%. As a result, fish and other aquatic life and land-borne animals have returned to lower Rock Creek and White Oak Creek, and so have land borne animals. Today, the watershed is a prime location for fishing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, and camping and hosts thousands of people each year.

Photo of a limestone channel

An example of the limestone channels created to help reduce PH levels in the watershed.

Fisherman holds a small trout at Lower Rock Creek

Fish and other wildlife have returned to the Lower Rock Creek Watershed.

Dents Run Ecosystem Restoration Project

The 25 square mile Dents Run watershed is best known for its role as a home to Pennsylvania’s elk herd and its world class trout stream. However, nine historic surface and underground coal mines dating back to the 1800s were leaching acid mine drainage so heavily into the watershed that passive treatment methods would not be effective, and active treatment would be very expensive.

To carry out such a large project, the state asked government agencies, mining companies, watershed groups and landowners to commit funding and manpower. Eventually, about 56 percent of the project cost was underwritten by non-government sources.

Project managers also discovered that one of the targeted areas contained both marketable coal and a huge deposit of high quality limestone – more than a million and a half tons –perfect for treating acid mine drainage. In addition, the presence of the coal and the limestone helped hold down costs, and mining both helped establish a relationship with a mining company.

Before the project ended, the group graded 320 acres, and replanted it for the resident elk herd. They reclaimed ten highwalls, more than 30-thousand linear feet. They mined more than a half-million tons of limestone to provide alkalinity in the stream and in the reclaimed sites, moved more than 5000 cubic yards of coal waste, closed 23 old mine openings, installed five wet seals, and treated 14 AMD discharges.

It took almost ten years, starting in October 2002, but in March, Pennsylvania declared the downstream portion of Dents Run as net alkaline for the first time in one hundred years. The incredibly large reclamation numbers tell one story.

But it’s the return of trout – and fishermen – and the growth of Pennsylvania’s famous Elk herd that tell the most vivid tale. In March 2012, the state declared Dents Run as “net alkaline” for the first time in 100 years, enabling fish and wildlife to return and flourish.

Elk on reclamied AML sites in the Dents Run Watershed

Elk on reclamied AML sites in the Dents Run Watershed.

Aerial photo of the Dents Run watershed

This undated photo shows a small portion of the 25 square mile Dents Run watershed area.

Page Last Modified/Reviewed: 5/17/17

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