|Possible Mining & Reservoir Creation Scenarios
|Small Reservoir Scenario: Surface Area = 90 acres
Shoreline = 1.7 miles Volume = +1 Billion Gallons
The above map shows in blue outline a small case scenario for reservoir creation through mining and reclamation.
This scenario would not involve the construction of any new dam in any nearby valley. After draining, the floor of the
existing Silver Creek Reservoir would below lowered by removing earth and coal. The excavated volume could easily
provide three times more storage volume than the present reservoir. Excavated earth and rock could be used to
produce sand, rock, or stone or simply used as clean fill to reclaim nearby abandoned mine land. This scenario
leaves the Caparell Pit in its present state so it could continue to receive and store Silver Creek's flow. The Caparell
Pit, in conjunction with Blythe's existing Moss Glen system and/or a newly created interconnection with Tamaqua's
water system, would assure a continued and even greater supply of water while the larger reservoir is being created.
|Medium Reservoir Scenario: Surface Area = 200 acres
Shoreline = 3.5 miles Volume = +4 Billion Gallons
New Dam Height = 100 feet
The above map shows in blue outline a medium scale scenario for reservoir creation through mining and reclamation.
This scenario would involve the construction of a new dam in the Big Creek Valley just east of the Caparell Pit (shown
as green/purple line). Abundant earth and rock byproduct from surface mining would be the primary material for dam
construction. It's worth noting that this (rockfill) dam construction method is prevalent throughout the world; with
origins in the surface mining industry. If fact, the recent (2005) rehabilitation of the Silver Creek Dam involved this
practice by utilizing readily available nearby "Caparell" strip mine overburden as the primary construction material.
This mining and reclamation scenario encompasses the existing Silver Creek Reservoir, as well as the Caparell Pit.
Provisions for a continued water supply are similar to the first scenario above, however, once mining and reclamation
advances and interferes with the Caparell Pit's ability to be used as a water source, the Moss Glen system and
Tamaqua interconnection will provide all water requirements until the new reservoir comes online. It is important to
note that the Tamaqua interconnection alone; can safely provide more water than Blythe's existing Silver Creek and
Moss Glen System's combined. So even in the remote case where the Silver Creek & Moss Glen sources could not
satisfy water supply needs until mining and reservoir creation was complete, the Tamaqua interconnection assures a
more than adequate supply.
Additionally, Blythe's existing water distribution (pipe) system has an leak rate of more than 50%, meaning that more
than half of the water Blythe collects, treats, and stores is lost to leaky water mains and smaller pipes. This leak rate
is considered excessive by the PaDEP and should, by industry standards, be less than 20%. Finding and fixing leaks
would reduce costs and increase profitability of the overall mining and reclamation project by reducing the amount of
water drawn from Silver Creek & Moss Glen, or the amount purchased from Tamaqua...and more profit means more
money for other needed public uses.
Although dam construction under this scenario could be minimized by the abundance of earth and rock by-product
from mining, it will certainly add to overall project cost and reduce profits generated from coal recovery. However,
such a sizable reservoir offers a valuable long-term asset in the realm of sustainable regional water supply and
economic development. It is hoped that environmental and economic improvement entities, such as PaDEP and
SEDCO, could become involved and provide a better understanding as to the future need or value of a large lake or
reservoir at this location. See the reservoir scenario description below for additional discussion regarding such
|Large Reservoir Scenario: Surface Area = 600 acres
Shoreline = 7 miles Volume = +10 Billion Gallons
West Dam Height = +50 feet East Dam Height = 200 feet
The above map shows in blue outline a large scale scenario for reservoir creation through mining and reclamation.
Under this scenario two new dams could be constructed. One low in the Big Creek Valley and one west of the Burma
Road at the head of the valley created by the southern branch of Wolf Creek. These dams are shown as
green/purple line segments) This mining and reclamation scenario encompasses the entire local measure of coal
reserves, including removal (daylighting) of the St. Clair Coal Co. deep mine complex. Like the medium sized
scenario, mining would remove all, earth, rock, and coal. Coal would be sold and rock used as the primary
construction material for new dams. The void left behind by excavation would become part of the final impounding
(reservoir) storage volume, leaving the entire site submerged with no visible sign of past mining or reclamation.
The cost of constructing such large dams would easily exceed mining profits. Additionally, the natural drainage area
to this large reservoir is relatively small and would need to be supplemented by pump and pipeline systems capable
of diverting water from nearby watersheds during high flow (storm) events. Like the medium scale reservoir above,
these added features are costly, but offer many long-term potential benefits in the realm of sustainable water
resources and economic development. Flood control benefits are also possible by pumping, diverting, and storing
stream flows during storm events. Water based recreation / tourism, like that offered at nearby Blue-Marsh and
Beltzville Lakes, is also possible. Again, the additional investment in such a large scale reservoir system would have
to come from entities seeking to develop future water supply, flood control, and/or recreational facilities. High on the
list of possible entities is PaDEP, PaDCNR, DRBC, Army Corp of Engineers, or a large water or energy utility. An
excellent example of utility investment in a large reservoir and recreational facility is the Merill Creek Reservoir in New
Jersey as well as the lakes and reservoirs described in the following website links:
Once an alternative water supply is in place and functional, mining and reclamation becomes a relatively simple and
straightforward venture. Past mining, drilling, and exploration has provided an excellent understanding of the location
and quantity of all remaining coal. Site hydrology, topography, and geology is well understood and documented.
Mining economics are very favorable due to the quantity and quality of virgin coal found at relatively shallow depths.
The only real challenge would be determining how large of a lake or reservoir could be created by and through
mining and reclamation. The smallest possible reservoir could offer nearly 1 billion gallons of storage or several
times the capacity of the existing Silver Creek Reservoir at 230 million gallons. This scenario would not require the
construction of any new dam, but simply increasing the depth and storage volume of the existing reservoir by and
through the excavation of earth, rock, and coal.
Scenarios offering larger post mining reservoirs require new dam construction in the Big Creek Valley, just east -
northeast of where mining and reclamation would take place. The Silver Creek / Big Creek area offers favorable
conditions for such a scenario. In fact, new dam construction on Big Creek was seriously considered several times in
the past by the Reading Company and/or the Blythe Water Authority.
Not only would mining provide abundant low-cost earthen material for new dam construction, but every cubic yard of
rock excavated adds to the storage volume behind any new dam(s). Taking this approach to the maximum offers the
possibility for this area to host a lake nearly three miles long with a capacity of nearly 10 billion gallons. However,
without the involvement and / or subsidy of state, federal, or private water resource entity, the cost of building such a
large dam and reservoir could render coal mining unprofitable. Absent such involvement, it is only logical to evaluate
scenarios that maintain overall profitability. For example, the smallest case reservoir scenario generates little
additional costs as earth moving is an inherent and absorbed cost with any profitable mining venture.
Below are figures that help visualize three different scales of possible mining and reclamation scenarios...small,
medium, and large. Keep in mind that other scales, scenarios, and combinations are possible.