Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Wildlife and Fisheries Resources
In Appalachia, coal mining is a vital economic activity. Steps must be taken to ensure the future of the coal mining industry as well as the ecological sustainability of the landscape. By examining the effects of landscape disturbance on stream water quality, disturbance thresholds can be calculated from stream conductivity measurements in various segment level watersheds that contain varying levels of landscape disturbance. These thresholds can indicate how much landscape disturbance can be allowed in a segment-level watershed before water quality depreciates past certain conductivity levels or levels necessary to support macro-invertebrate life. This analysis was conducted on the Coal River USGS 8 digit watershed located in the southern coalfields of West Virginia and incorporated landscape classification techniques to classify the Coal River Watershed for disturbance from mining, forestry, and construction activities. Extensive landscape analysis was performed using GIS and spatial analysis techniques in order to examine the current ecological condition and health of the Coal River watershed, as well as its vulnerability to additional mining related disturbance slated to occur within 15 surface coal mine permit boundaries currently under review by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.;Using multivariate linear regression of independent landscape disturbance variables along with the response variable of summer stream conductivity field sampling measurements, a multivariate linear conductivity model was developed for application to study areas of interest. Through the delineation of hydrologic catchment areas for each of 15 mine permits under review, current summer stream conductivity estimates were calculated using the multivariate linear conductivity model at the outflow point of each catchment area. These current conductivity estimates were then used to determine how much additional mining could be supported by the catchment areas, and in turn, the permits under review. This study concludes that out of the 15 permits under review, 2 have already been disturbed past the maximum allowable conductivity threshold, 1 is at the maximum, and the remaining 12 can carry varying amounts of additional mining. An environmental policy can be created from this analysis taxing marginal increases in mining related disturbance relevant to the current stream conductivity levels within the hydrologic catchment area containing the proposed disturbance.
Kunkel, Lafe Joseph, "A Landscape Analysis of Surface Coal Mine Permits in the Coal River Watershed of West Virginia" (2011). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 3284.