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An Evaluation of Postmining Land Use in Kentucky
Department of Landscape Architecture
Research on the extent and character of landscape and land use changes occurring due to surface coal mining will facilitate better public decision making and improved economic opportunities in Appalachian Kentucky. Surface coal mining has generated public concern over landslides, stream degradation, sediment pond failures, flooding and erosion. The scale of landscape change created by changing technologies in surface mining has caused apprehension in regard to the destruction of scenic qualities, the burial of stream headwater areas, and the loss of both vegetation and habitat. Data on surface coal mining in Kentucky exists in partial and disparate data bases, which makes it difficult to understand how mining has affected Appalachian land use over time.
This research will investigate uses put forth as "higher or better," using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to integrate mining data with other data related to land use, to gain insight into patterns and extent of surface mining induced changes in land use and land capability in Appalachian Kentucky. Studies have shown that the procedures in surface mining regulations have not been consistently followed or enforced in regard to proper documentation for postmining land use exemptions from returning sites to their approximate original contour. Coal mining remains an important part of the local economy. However, its value to the region must be weighed against both the immediate and long-term impacts of surface coal mining. Though reclamation now takes place as part of the mining process, surface coal mining results in changes in landform, land cover, land capability and land use. Given the large extent of land affected by surface coal mining, negative impacts on future land use are a concern.
This research should help determine if postmining land uses have been implemented as proposed, and where the permitting process might be improved for better results. It will help regulatory personnel understand the long term impacts of land use designations and the likelihood of success of proposed land uses, thus improving permit review, and ultimately, leading to more productive postmined landscapes.
2010 Project Description
Mine map overlays for Perry County, Kentucky, series 1 through 6, have been digitized as polygon "shapefiles" and attributed with mining permit numbers and mine feature codes. These polygons have been joined with tabular permit data to give spatial form to information about dates of mining, types of mining, forfeiture or abandonment, and land use.
A working agreement is being developed with Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS), which, together with the Kentucky Department for Surface Mining, has been working on a similar project to digitize the mine polygons. We will adopt their protocol and digitize these quadrangles in our study areas which they have not completed, adding to their data base, while being able to use data thy have already produced for our counties of interest. Both groups have completed Perry County, and a comparison of the two data sets indicates only minor discrepancies. The KGS group has identified permit numbers for codes missing in the legends in the publicly available images, thus those omissions will easily be fixed in our data.
An initial search for satellite sensing data and aerial photography to support land use change analysis has found limited availability of appropriate, no cost, data sets. The search will expand to include data not currently available on-line, and data for purchase. The mining polygons are helpful in interpreting the imagery we do have, by providing both spatial and temporal bounds for characteristics observed in the images.
Working with KGS will move completion dates of both projects forward. They may wish to include a data field we developed, which identifies related permits with different permit numbers. The format of early permit numbers is composed of both a site code and a year, which helps to identify the sequence of expansion of mining. Pulling out the site code makes it easier to display mining areas.