Department of Environment Addresses Road Closure Linked to Abandoned Mine

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Jay Apperson

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Department of Environment Addresses Road Closure Linked to Abandoned Mine

MDE’s Frostburg-based Abandoned Mine Land and Acid Mine Drainage Division works with Garrett County; Aaron Run Road reopened

Frostburg, MD (January 2, 2015) – When an abandoned underground coal mine’s empty spaces helped cause a stretch of Garrett County road to collapse, the Maryland Department of the Environment played a key role in fixing the problem.

MDE’s Abandoned Mine Land and Acid Mine Drainage Division determined that the abandoned mine, beneath Aaron Run Road, helped cause a portion of the road and the nearby ground to give way last spring. The Division, which is part of MDE’s Mining Program, then secured federal funding and drew up the design and specifications for the excavation of the landslide and the construction of a solid foundation for the road. The Garrett County Roads Department paved the road, and it reopened in November.

The County Roads Department notified the Division of the collapse in May. Several entrances to the former Ezra Michael Mine were seen in the area of the landslide, and the Roads Department asked the Division to investigate and determine whether federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Funds could be used for the repair. The Division, which is based in Frostburg, performed a joint investigation with the federal Office of Surface Mining. That investigation determined that the subsidence of the abandoned mine contributed to the landslide, making the project eligible for the federal funding. Maryland’s annual $3 million allotment of federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Funds was largely spent on other projects, but the Division was able to secure an additional $605,000 in federal funding for the Aaron Run Road project.

The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund was established in 1977 as part of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Since then, coal mine operators have paid to the Office of Surface Mining a production fee for each ton of coal mine. The current fees are 28 cents per ton for surface-mined coal and 12 cents per ton for deep-mined coal.

The Ezra Michael Mine was abandoned in 1954. It was a deep mine, meaning that tunnels were created beneath the surface to allow coal to be mined. The Abandoned Mine Land and Acid Mine Drainage Division provided permitting, design and specifications for the repair project, which included removing material and the tunnels and backfilling to create a foundation.  Steep cliffs and the proximity to Michaels Run presented challenges to the project. The Garrett County Roads Department provided design input.

The Maryland Department of General Services handled the emergency procurement. The project was bid out in September. Carl Belt Inc. was the successful bidder at $692,790.75. Construction began in September and finished ahead of schedule. The road reopened on November 17.

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