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Coal Basin Project

Coal Creek encompasses a watershed of nearly 27 square miles and enters the Crystal River at Redstone. This watershed, called Coal Basin, is characterized by naturally steep, unstable, and eroding slopes and endured fifty years of large-scale coal mining.  The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety (CDRMS) completed a series of restoration projects in Coal Basin from 1994-2004 on almost 650 acres of disturbed area directly connected to the Coal Creek stream system.  Erosion from reclaimed mining areas, as well as sedimentation from naturally occurring soil erosion and debris flows, are degrading water quality and stream habitat in Coal Basin and contributing to sedimentation issues and channel downcutting on the Crystal River. The White River National Forest and Roaring Fork Conservancy have enhanced and maintained the reclaimed mine areas and have also addressed the surrounding unstable slopes.


Biochar Used to Slow Erosion in Coal Basin During Pilot Study

In late September 2012, Roaring Fork Conservancy and the White River National Forest conducted a road reclamation pilot project in Coal Basin designed to assess the effectiveness of several restoration techniques which can be applied on a broader landscape scale in Coal Basin and other locations. The White River National Forest and Roaring Fork Conservancy partnered to complete the groundwork for the pilot project. The project reclaimed portions of one of the old coal haul roads to restore a more natural drainage pattern and applied two different soil amendments (biochar-compost, compost only, and no amendments for a control).  The reclaimed areas will be seeded with native vegetation just before the snow falls. Next year, monitoring will be conducted to study the vegetation response, soil chemistry, and moisture content.

The pilot road reclamation effort in Coal Basin will yield important information on the efficacy and utility of biochar (which can be produced from beetle-killed timber) as a soil amendment. This is particularly significant, given the growing interest in biochar as a multipurpose reclamation material and the need for long-term field studies. This part of the project may also have economic implications - indicating the need for increased and local biochar production capabilities in Colorado to make landscape-scale applications feasible. The use of biochar for road reclamation will also provide the ancillary benefit of carbon sequestration – addressing an issue of importance for the entire planet.

Coal Basin Project

Coal Basin Biochar Pilot Project Overview

Scott Snelson, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger of the White River National Forest gives an overview of the project, September 29, 2012.



Funding Sources and Partners

  • Colorado Watershed Conservation Board Watershed Restoration Grant
  • Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Fund
  • Biochar Solutions
  • EcoFlight
  • Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Account
  • Colorado Basin Roundtable
  • White River National Forest
  • Roaring Fork Conservancy donors

White River National Forest, Roaring Fork Conservancy, Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety (CDRMS), Colorado Watershed Conservation Board, Pitkin County, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado Department of Transportation, Biochar Solutions, EcoFlight, Colorado Basin Roundtable, United States Geological Survey (USGS), Mesa State University, Wildland Hydrology, Ruedi Water and Power Authority, Roaring Fork Audubon Society, BlueGreen, Aspen Global Change Institute, Wilderness Workshop, Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife; Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association 


Contact Us

Roaring Fork Conservancy

PHONE: (970) 927-1290

PO Box 3349
Basalt, CO 81621

22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621

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