As Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) trustees, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are seeking the public’s input on the draft restoration plan and environmental assessment related to the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill.

The draft restoration plan considers projects to restore damaged natural resources or replace resource services lost as a result of the spill. The NRDAR process is separate from closure and cleanup activities.

The public comment period began Friday after the notice of availability for the draft restoration plan and consent decree were published in the Federal Register.

The comment period ends on Sept. 9.

The trustees will hold two public information sessions to present the draft restoration plan, with an open house and poster session focused on answering questions about the projects identified in the draft restoration plan. 

The first hearing is set from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Danville City Council located at 427 Patton St. | Fourth Floor in Danville.

The second hearing is slated from 6 to 8 p.m. the following day, Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Eden Town Hall, located at 308 E. Stadium Drive in Eden.

Background

On Feb. 2, 2014, a stormwater pipe failed underneath the primary coal ash basin at the Duke Energy Dan River Steam Station in Eden, North Carolina. The result was a spill of approximately 27 million gallons of coal ash wastewater, and between 30,000 and 39,000 tons of coal ash, into the Dan River.

Ash, or ash-like material, mixed with native sediment in North Carolina and Virginia as far as 70 river miles downstream.

The Dan River spill NRDAR process included collecting and reviewing monitoring data in the Dan River for several years after the completion of the cleanup, gathering public input on restoration project, and determining the types and scale of restoration needed to restore resources and recreational opportunities.

In October 2014, the trustees invited restoration project ideas from the public to help meet their goal to replace, restore, rehabilitate or acquire the equivalent of the resources impacted and recreational opportunities lost by the spill. Public feedback showed support for land protection and conservation projects, dam removals and greater public access to the river.

The timing of the settlement does not delay the restoration of natural resources and recreational services.

The restoration projects listed below will provide natural resource and recreational benefits.

• Acquired and conserved Mayo River floodplain and riverbank adding up to 619 acres to the Mayo River State Parks in North Carolina and Virginia for long-term stewardship.

• Restored aquatic habitat in the Pigg River via removal of the Power Dam returning riverine conditions to 2.2 miles of the formerly impounded reach, fish passage and aquatic connectivity benefiting game fish such as smallmouth bass and the federally and state listed Roanoke logperch and other nongame fish.

• Establishment of public boat launch facilities on the Dan River to address the scarcity of public access locations, which limits recreational use and enjoyment of the river.

• Made improvements to the Abreu Grogan Park in Danville, including new amenities (courtesy dock, a fishing platform, a restroom building and an information kiosk, handicapped accessible parking and sidewalks) and other improvements (culvert and riverbank stabilization and relocation of the picnic table and grill) to address impacts related to park closure during spill response activities.

A proposed consent decree encompassing the projects above was lodged with the federal court on Thursday, July 19, and is available at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees

To learn more about the NRDAR for the Dan River coal ash spill or obtain a copy of the draft restoration plan, visit https://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/CaseDetails?ID=984 and under “Case Documents - Restoration” select the Dan River Coal Ash Spill Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment link.

Requests for paper copies and written comments on the draft plan may be submitted to the trustees either by email (Sara_Ward@fws.gov or Susan_Lingenfelser@fws.gov) or by mail (USFWS Virginia Field Office, 6669 Short Lane, Gloucester, VA 23061, Attn: Dan River Restoration Plan).