Often, natural channel design employees a technique in which the dimension, pattern and profile of an "ideal" stream or reference reach is mimicked to create the new channel. The crux of this design technique is the ability of the designer to locate the appropriate reference stream - such a stream should have many similar characteristics (watershed area, valley type, geology, etc.). However, mined lands - particularly valley fills - present a unique challenge in that a reference reach is often difficult to locate as the valley configuration is quite different and the valley material itself is geologically young. Adding to the challenge of the design is the incorporation of habitat enhancement aspects, as water quality issues are often the limiting factor.
As part of the design of the Guy Cove restoration project, research regarding tree growth on loose-dumped spoil (in accordance with RAM #124) will be utilized. While demonstration projects at Starfire and Bent Mountain are showing that high value hardwood trees grow exceptionally well on loose-dumped spoil, questions remain regarding the rainfall-runoff or rather rainfall-infiltration response of this treatment - particularly regarding the amount, timing and duration (by the very nature of the loose-dumped configuration, surface runoff is negligible) - as well as the quality of the discharge waters. Questions exist regarding the sedimentological aspects of these loose-dumped systems as well as the functioning of these systems in the carbon cycle (note that headwater systems are ecologically important in that they supply organic matter to higher order stream systems). By gaining a better understanding of the hydrologic, sedimentologic, and water quality characteristics of the loose-dumped spoil, the stream restoration design at Guy Cove will be greatly enhanced.
To answer questions three types of spoil, two replications each, are being examined: 1) brown, weathered sandstone, 2) gray, unweathered sandstone, and 3) a mixture of the brown, weathered sandstone; gray, unweathered sandstone; and shale. The six test plots at Bent Mountain are equipped with recording tipping buckets to collect data regarding the volume, timing and duration of discharge. Additionally, composite samples from each rain event are being collected and analyzed for a number of sediment, physical, and metal constituents.