Some Hopeful Signs for Kentucky’s Water

By: Tara Hester, Staff Member

Governor Steve Beshear and his Energy and Environment Cabinet as well as several other groups are working closely with the coal industry to protect Appalachian creeks and streams from the impact of surface mining. Stephanie McSpirit, Some Hopeful Signs for Kentucky's Water, Lexington Herald-Leader, Jan. 25, 2010, available at The recent reclamation advisory gives clear guidelines so that more excess spoil is retained on the mine site and not bulldozed into valleys and streams. Id. These guidelines are not only good for streams and creeks and the biological communities that they host but are also beneficial to communities downstream from surface mine sites. Id. Stricter guidelines with more attention on protecting stream and creek channels will help reduce the impacts associated with flooding and flash-flooding events. Id. Currently, these guidelines are not mandatory, but only "best practice" guidelines that coal mines are encouraged to follow. There is hope, however, at both the federal and state level that the guidelines will be followed. Id. In Kentucky, stricter federal standards between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in granting 404 dredge and fill permits under the Clean Water Act will undoubtedly push more coal companies into adhering to these new reclamation guidelines. Id.

There are several things that can be done to further protect the Appalachian waters. One suggestion is more collaboration and sharing of information and data between the Division of Water and the Department of Natural Resources in evaluating the cumulative impacts of mine activities on waterways. Id. The Department of Natural Resources needs access to the data collected by the Division of Water to better review the impacts of mining activities on surface water. Id. However, it appears efforts to protect Kentucky's waters are moving in the right direction by encouraging discussion among experts and stakeholder groups in developing strategies and recommendations to better protect Kentucky's natural resources and our communities. Id.