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Characterization, Cleanup, and Revitalization of Mining Sites

Developing a Watershed Partnership

Multiple abandoned mines can contribute contamination to a watershed. These mines may be distributed over several jurisdictions and have different landowners. Addressing them separately could result in inefficient or incomplete cleanups. For example, an upstream mine may continue to discharge abandoned mine drainage (AMD) to downstream mines undergoing remediation. This might recontaminate the downstream area, increasing cleanup costs and delaying site restoration. However, by developing a partnership among watershed stakeholders, a more holistic and comprehensive cleanup and restoration of the watershed can be achieved.

Partnerships are not "one size fits all." Members of a partnership will depend on who owns the abandoned mine lands, who is affected, and who is concerned or interested in addressing mining impacts. Partnerships can include federal, state, and local agencies; and non-governmental partners such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community groups, academic institutions, and private-sector companies.

The Federal Mining Dialogue, whose members represent 14 federal agencies, formed the Watershed and Partnerships Working Group to create and share materials that may be useful in developing and maintaining partnerships.

The Watershed and Partnerships Working Group has prepared a training presentationAdobe PDF Logo and associated handoutAdobe PDF Logo that can help you:

Watershed—the area that drains to a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland, aquifer or even the ocean. Abandoned mines can have many negative impacts on a watershed.

  • Understand the benefits of using partnerships to address abandoned mine lands.
  • Identify partners.
  • Develop and maintain relationships.
  • Define success and develop shared goals.
  • Celebrate success.

As a supplement to the training, the Working Group prepared a four-page handout that summarizes best management practices for developing and maintaining partnerships. The Working Group identified these best management practices through interviews with project managers and other watershed partners.

The Working Group's two-page fact sheet, Facilitation/Collaboration Support Resources, Adobe PDF Logo identifies programs available to federal agencies that provide facilitation, collaboration and conflict resolution services. Page 2 of the fact sheet identifies several useful training opportunities on these skills, with a focus on partnership development.

Finally, working with non-governmental partners can augment a watershed approach, enhancing and expediting successful cleanup of the watershed. The handout Partnering with Non-Governmental PartnersAdobe PDF Logo provides some suggestions. The handout includes a story map that documents the work of the Kerber Creek Watershed Partnership in restoring a healthy watershed to a region degraded by silver mines.


Additional Resources

In addition to the information and resources developed by the Watershed and Partnerships Working Group, the following resources may be of interest when developing partnerships to address watersheds impacted by mining sites:

The Brownfields Stakeholder Forum Kit: This kit focuses specifically on how to develop partnerships to address redevelopment of brownfields sites, but it contains useful information that could inform people interested in forming partnerships to address mining-impacted watersheds.

EPA Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center (CPRC): EPA's Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center is the Agency's primary resource for services and expertise in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), environmental conflict resolution, consensus-building, and collaborative problem solving. The CPRC provides training and support to EPA staff to help them work more effectively, strategically, and transparently with states, tribes, and local stakeholders to achieve better environmental outcomes. Resources are available for communities. Every office at EPA has access to this contract to quickly hire professional neutral facilitators and mediators to assist with preventing and reducing conflict associated with their environmental projects. The CPRC supports ADR across the Agency, pursuant to EPA's ADR Policy.

EPA Urban Waters Program: EPA's Urban Waters Small Grant program provides grants to organizations to help protect and restore urban waters, improve water quality, and support community revitalization and other local priorities, which might include addressing mining-related issues.

Getting to Yes: Book by William Ury presents theories and tactics based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation project, an organization that deals with all levels of negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution.

Making a Collaboration Work: Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resources Management: Book by Julia Wondolleck and Steven Leis Yaffee draws on lessons from nearly two hundred cases from around the country to offer specific advice for agencies and individuals interested in pursuing a collaborative approach.

Urban Waters Federal Partnership: The Urban Waters Partnership reconnects urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies. The Partnership also collaborates with community-led revitalization efforts to improve our Nation's water systems and promote their economic, environmental and social benefits.


Examples of Watershed Partnerships

In response to two mine blowouts in the mid nineties, concerned citizens and stakeholders organized Friends of the Cheat (FOC) to address the problems resulting from over a century of coal mining. Although water quality has been degraded by acid mine drainage (AMD) since the 1970s, the Cheat River's whitewater industry suffered over a 50% drop in business following the mine blowouts. Learn more about the history of the mine blowouts, the formation of FOC, and cleanup activities at the FOC story map.

Partners: FODC membership is composed mainly of interested area residents led by an Executive Director and seven-member board. FOC has several state, federal, and local partners.


  • Restore, preserve, and promote the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed.
  • Foster a cooperative effort by state and federal agencies, private industry, academics, grassroots organizations, and local landowners to address the severe AMD issues in the Cheat River watershed.

In 1995, Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) was started by an informal group of kayakers, rock climbers, anglers, and other creek enthusiasts who organized cleanups of illegal dumps and water quality monitoring. Today, FODC's mission is to improve the natural qualities of, increase the public concern for, and promote the enjoyment of the watershed. The biggest threat to the Deckers Creek watershed is acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines.

Partners: FODC membership is composed mainly of interested area residents led by an Executive Director and 12-member board. Both individuals and businesses donate funds, and FODC has obtained grant money for site cleanup and monitoring from the Office of Surface Mining and Remediation Enforcement and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. West Virginia University frequently provides assistance and equipment in implementing these projects.


  • Make Deckers Creek fishable and swimmable throughout the entire length of its 64 square mile watershed.

Treatment Design and Progress at the Richard Mine DischargeAdobe PDF Logo
SlidesAdobe PDF Logo

The legacy of silver mining from the Bonanza Mining District had impacted the Kerber Creek Watershed in south central Colorado. Attempts to clean up the watershed started in the 1990s, but did not achieve full cleanup and restoration. The Kerber Creek Watershed Partnership was developed to address the remaining contamination in the watershed. Through about $1.2 million in funding from partners and over 3,000 volunteer hours, the partners were able to clean up and restore the watershed.

Partners: Several federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private land owners.


  • Understand the state of the watershed.
  • Facilitate stakeholder collaboration.
  • Promote a stewardship ethic.
  • Plan and implement projects.

More than 100 years of mining activities in the mountains immediately west of Boulder, have resulted in heavy metal and other mining-related contamination scattered throughout the Left Hand Creek watershed. Residents and stakeholders founded Lefthand Watershed Oversight Group (LWOG) in response to mine cleanup activities in the watershed. One of LWOG's first activities was to develop a watershed plan to direct future mine waste cleanup efforts. Today, its mission is to assess, protect, and restore the quality of the watershed, and to serve as a hub for watershed issues through the fostering of stakeholder collaboration.

Partners: Federal, state and local agencies, individuals, corporations, conservation districts, non-profits, municipalities, institutions.


  • Understand the state of the watershed.
  • Facilitate stakeholder collaboration.
  • Promote a stewardship ethic.
  • Plan and implement projects.

The Raccoon Creek Watershed Partnership's mission is to work toward conservation, stewardship, and restoration of the Raccoon Creek Watershed for a healthier stream and community. According to Ohio University's Ohio Watershed Data webpage, there are approximately 25,610 acres of underground mines and 21,550 acres of surface mines in the watershed, which suffers from acid mine drainage as well as pollution from oil and natural gas byproducts, erosion and sedimentation, sewage, and industrial point source pollution.

Partners: Federal and state agencies, conservation districts, universities, and residents.


  • Partner with local, state and federal agencies and organizations to facilitate and implement water quality restoration, enhancement, and protection projects.
  • Conduct outreach activities and provide environmental education to the public and watershed partners with regard to Raccoon Creek watershed management.
  • Create, enhance, and promote recreational opportunities on Raccoon Creek.
  • Support and coordinate watershed-related research activities.
  • Develop and support stewardship programs to activate and educate the local watershed community.

Abandoned mine drainage from coal mines is the primary cause of pollution in the Schuylkill River headwaters and the biggest source of metals downstream. The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) AMD Workgroup was formed to provide support and coordination among partners working to address AMD. SAN's mission is to improve water resources in the Schuylkill River watershed by working in partnership to transcend regulatory and jurisdictional boundaries in the strategic implementation of protection measures.

Partners: The SAN has over 80 partners including federal, state, regional, and county agencies, universities, nonprofits, water suppliers and utilities, and private companies.


  • Support existing efforts and implement actions to restore and protect water quality in the Schuylkill River watershed.
  • Promote the long-term coordinated stewardship and restoration of the watershed and educate others regarding their roles in protecting the watershed and water supplies.
  • Transfer the experience and lessons learned to other communities.
  • Enhance intergovernmental communication and coordination by working together on the identification and resolution of environmental issues with shared regulatory responsibility.

Over 100 years of coal mining activities resulted in AMD contamination of Shoup's Run and its tributary, Miller Run making the streams almost devoid of life. Founded in 1998, the Shoup's Run Watershed Association (SRWA), has completed over $2 million in restoration projects through funding provided by partners, including the installation of AMD passive treatment systems throughout the watershed. Other projects completed include the reclamation of almost 5 acres of land, replacement of acid-producing roadbed material with limestone, and stabilization of stream banks.

Partners: Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, PA Growing Greener, federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), EPA 319 Program, PA DEP, PA Game Commission, Huntingdon County Conservation District, and the Western Pennsylvania Watershed Program.


  • Clean up AMD.
  • Stabilize stream banks and restore stream channels.
  • Restore and preserve water quality.
  • Complete projects to enhance brook trout population.

SRWA Coldwater Conservation Plan for Miller Run AdobeAdobe PDF Logo
Pennsylvania's Miller Run, Section 319 Success Story ( PDF Logo

In 1994, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources helped assemble the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition to address impacts from the approximate 12,000 acres of land underlain by abandoned deep and surface coal mines (about 75% of the headwaters area) on Slippery Rock Creek.

Partners: Several state, federal, and local agencies and governments; academic institutions; private companies; and nonprofits.


  • Restore the land, water, and wildlife resources of the Slippery Rock Watershed, which has been impacted by acid mine drainage.
  • Provide an opportunity for individuals, community groups, and students from local colleges to become involved in restoration efforts.
  • Develop new technology relating to land restoration and discharge abatement.
  • Develop informational posters, videos, newsletters, and web pages to aid as educational tools.

In 2003, the South Fayette Conservation Group formed to restore the Chartiers Creek watershed, which was contaminated with AMD from abandoned deep coal mines. Their efforts and funding, provided by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, led to the design and construction of the Gladden AMD Treatment Plant. Over 1 million gallons of water are treated daily removing iron from the watershed, restoring four miles of Miller's run and four miles of Chartiers Creek to a warm water, trout-stocked fishery with improved recreational uses.

Partners: PA Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, South Fayette Township, and the PA Fish and Boat Commission.


  • Ensure the conservation, protection, and enhancement of natural and recreational resources.

The Superior Watershed Partnership is a local non-profit organization focusing conservation-based, water quality projects on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Partnership completes projects that benefit the local communities and protect Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. The Partnership participates with the Community Foundation of Marquette County in a Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP), which performs air quality monitoring and transportation route sampling at Eagle Mine, a nickel and copper mine.

Partners: Several federal, state, and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, and universities.


  • Complete local projects that help the local communities and surrounding Great Lakes, including but not limited to:
    • Watershed plan development and watershed restoration.
    • Storm water management, dune restoration, beach monitoring, and community pollution prevention.

Formed in 1970, the Turtle Creek Watershed Association (TCWA) is one of the oldest- long lived watershed associations in Westmoreland County and the State of Pennsylvania. The Association initially operated as a Pennsylvania-chartered environmental planning agency involved with erosion, sedimentation, flood control, sewage, and abandoned coal mine drainage issues within the 147- square mile Turtle Creek Watershed. TCWA has managed projects that have addressed recreation, trout stocking, environmental education, and natural resource conservation throughout the watershed.

Partners: More than 30 municipalities and residents.


  • Study the resources of the watershed and develop a watershed management program based on the results.
  • Promote local interest in the problems facing natural resources conservation in the watershed and solicit local support on the solutions developed to correct and alleviate the problem conditions.

The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership was created in 2007 when regional groups and concerned citizens applied for a watershed planning grant. The partnership is concerned about the Uncompahgre River and its tributaries and the impacts from past mining activities that occurred in its headwater regions. The partnership serves as a one-stop shop for community information about the river.

Partners: Several state agencies, local governments and agencies, foundations; businesses; nonprofits; and citizens.


  • Help restore and protect the economic, natural, and scenic values of the Upper Uncompahgre River Watershed.
  • Inform and engage all stakeholders and solicits input from diverse interests to ensure collaborative restoration efforts in the watershed.