A Hierarchical Classification System for Identifying Restoration and Protection Priorities in Mined Appalachian WatershedsEPA Grant Number: R831364
Title: A Hierarchical Classification System for Identifying Restoration and Protection Priorities in Mined Appalachian Watersheds
Investigators: Ziemkiewicz, P. , Petty, J. Todd , Stiles, James
Institution: West Virginia University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through August 31, 2007
Project Amount: $599,638
RFA: Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and Their Receiving Water Bodies (2003) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water
The specific objectives of our proposed research are to: 1) develop and validate a landscape model relating watershed attributes, instream attributes, and ecological condition of streams in mined watersheds of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands; 2) develop a hierarchical watershed classification system that can be used to identify areas of restoration priority and vulnerability to future impact; and 3) develop a watershed monitoring system that can be used to assess, monitor, and direct water resource management in mined, Appalachian watersheds.
To develop the landscape model we will synthesize existing data on watershed attributes, instream attributes, and ecological condition from the heat River watershed in northeastern West Virginia into a comprehensive GIS framework. The model will be designed to produce estimates of water chemistry, water temperature, stream flow, and ecological condition across a range of mining intensity and geologic characteristics. We will then use newly acquired data from the Tygart River basin in east-central West Virginia to validate the effectiveness of the landscape model. Output from the model will then be used to generate a hierarchical classification system of current ecological condition within both watersheds. The system will use continuous information (some measured and some predicted by the model) to quantify ecological condition of waterbodies across a range of spatial scales, beginning at a stream segment scale. We will then use a scaling process recently developed in our lab to quantify ecological condition at increasing hierarchical levels (e.g., segment to local drainage network to whole watershed). We also will use model output to classify waterbodies with regard to restoration potential and vulnerability to future mining impact by integrating known relationships among geology, coal structure, mining intensity, water chemistry, and ecological response. Finally, we will develop a hierarchically structured monitoring and assessment framework based on the watershed classification system.
Our research will produce a landscape model, classification system, and monitoring and assessment framework that can be used to direct restoration and management efforts in mining impacted watersheds of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. These tools will enable resource managers to focus resources on areas with high restoration potential. They also will facilitate and enable resource managers to justify protection of highly vulnerable areas within mined watersheds. Finally, the management tools produced from our research are necessary for the successful implementation of TMDL programs, anti-degradation policies, and water quality trading programs in mining impacted watersheds of the Mid-Atlantic Highlands.