MAHASKA COUNTY — The reclamation of nearly 100 acres of a former coal mine has been totally transformed, netting a national award for the team responsible for the project.
The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation National Award was awarded to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Mines and Minerals Bureau for its completion of the local Logan Mine reclamation project.
During a presentation held at the ISU Extension Office, a bureau member said the Logan Mine Project is still fragile, but it is now a monarch butterfly and pollinator habitat.
Iowa Mines and Minerals Bureau Chief Susan Kozak said the Abandoned Mine Land Program is very proud of the award, and that everyone in the room had a part to play in it.
"So we really appreciate all your hard work that went into getting this award," she said to the group of people assembled.
Kozak said the Office of Surface Mining gives awards every year.
"We've won the regional award a few times and we won a small project award but we've never won a national award and this was quite a surprise to us this year when we got that," she said. "There's a lot of competition across the nation for these awards. When you think about Iowa, we don't have any coal mining any more, not since 1994 and we have very small project in comparison to other states. Our program is very small. We have seven people."
Iowa's program does three or four reclamation projects each year, Kozak said, because of the size of the budget received from the federal government.
Kozak said she believed the main reason Iowa's Mines and Minerals Bureau won the award was due to the partnerships.
"It's the local connections in this room that made a difference. Office of Surface Mining is very impressed by how we work together," she said. "And we raise together local engineers, contractors, Pathfinders RC&D is a key partner that brings in watershed grants to us every year. We work with the county engineer's office, county supervisors, our local water district commissioners and staff."
Project Coordinator Randy Cooney said the bureau works on abandoned mine sites that were closed prior to 1977.
"Every time we talk in Southeast Iowa now and you talk to the local folks," he said, "it's amazing the history of mining and the families that were related to that industry."
COoney said there is a certain amount of relief now that the project is over, as a lot of time went into the project.
"But it's very rewarding when you get to see the finished project," he said, "and know that you've had a small part to play."
Kozak said the team was just happy to be recognized.
"When you look at the national competition for this award, it's really humbling that Iowa got selected for it," she said. "But it is the partnerships and all the local connections that we develop. We're really proud of that and we're recognized nationally for that, so that's exciting."
The bureau also provides emergency help for certain cases, Kozak said, including one that happened recently in Oskaloosa.
"We have underground coal mines in the area and once in a while, there's a mine collapse from those underground coal mines, and you'll see a small hole at the surface," she said. "And this one happens to be in somebody's backyard. He was mulching leaves and fell [partially] through and that's how we found about the hole. So we'll be out there fixing that in the next week or so for him."
Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.