Section 880-X-8J-.08 - Soils And Prime Farmlands (Alabama Administrative Code)

§ 880-X-8J-.08. Soils And Prime Farmlands

(1) Scope. This rule applies to any person who conducts or intends to conduct surface coal mining and reclamation operations on prime farmlands historically used for cropland. Nothing in this rule shall apply to:

(a) Lands on which surface coal mining and reclamation operations are conducted pursuant to any permit issued prior to August 3, 1977; or

(b) Lands on which any surface coal mining and reclamation operations are conducted pursuant to any renewal or revision of a permit issued prior to August 3, 1977; or

(c) Lands included in any existing surface coal mining operations for which a permit was issued for all or any part thereof prior to August 3, 1977, provided that;

1. Such lands are part of a single continuous surface coal mining operation begun under a permit issued before August 3, 1977;

2. The permittee had a legal right to mine the lands prior to August 3, 1977, through ownership, contract, or lease but not including an option to buy, lease, or contract; and

3. The lands contained part of a continuous recoverable coal seam that was mined in a single continuous mining pit (or multiple pits if the lands are proven to be part of a single continuous surface coal mining operation) begun under a permit issued prior to August 3, 1977.

(d) For purposes of this section;

1. "Renewal" of a permit shall mean a decision by the State Regulatory Authority to extend the time by which the permittee may complete mining within the boundaries of the original permit;

2. "Revision" of the permit shall mean a decision by the State Regulatory Authority to allow changes in the method of mining operation within the original permit area, or the decision of the State Regulatory Authority to allow incidental boundary changes to the original permit, or an amendment to a permit issued under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1975.

(2) Application contents for prime farmland. If the land within the proposed permit area is identified as prime farmland under Rule 880-X-8E-.10 or 880-X-8H-.10, the applicant shall submit a plan for the mining and restoration of the land. Each plan shall contain, at a minimum --

(a) A soil survey of the permit area according to the standards of the National Cooperative Soil Survey and in accordance with the procedures set forth in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbooks 436, "Soil Taxonomy" (U. S. Soil Conservation Service 1975) as amended on March 22, 1982, and October 5, 1985, and 18, "Soil Survey Manual" (U.S. Soil Conservation Service 1951), as amended on December 18, 1979, May 9, 1980, September 11, 1980, June 9, 1981, June 29, 1981, November 16, 1982. The U.S. Soil Conservation Service establishes the standards for the National Cooperative Soil Survey and maintains the National Soils Handbook which gives current acceptable procedures for conducting soil surveys. This National Soils Handbook is available for review at area and State SCS offices. U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbooks 436 and 18 are incorporated by reference as they exist on the date of adoption of this Rule. Notices of the changes made to these publications will be made periodically by the State Regulatory Authority.

1. The soil survey shall include a description of soil mapping units and a representative soil profile as determined by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, including, but not limited to, soil-horizon depth, pH, and the range of soil densities for each prime farmland soil unit within the permit area. Other representative soil-profile descriptions from the locality prepared according to the standards of the National Cooperative Soil Survey may be used if their use is approved by the State Conservationist, U.S. Soil Conservation Service. The State Regulatory Authority may request the operator to provide information on other physical and chemical soil properties as needed to make a determination that the operator has the technological capability to restore the prime farmland within the permit area to soil reconstruction standards of Subchapter 10(G).

(b) A plan for soil reconstruction, replacement, and stabilization for the purpose of establishing the technological capability of the mine operator to comply with the requirements of Subchapter 880-X-10G.

(c) Scientific data, such as agricultural school studies, for areas with comparable soils, climate, and management that demonstrate that the proposed method of reclamation, including the use of soil mixtures or substitutes, if any, will achieve within a reasonable time, levels of yield equivalent to, or higher than, those of non-mined prime farmland in the surrounding area.

(d) The productivity prior to mining, including the average yield of food, fiber, forage, or wood products obtained under a high level of management.

(3) The State Regulatory Authority shall consult with the State Conservationist in determining the nature and extent of any required on-site preapplication investigation. Before any permit is issued for areas that include prime farmland, the State Regulatory Authority shall provide a copy of the soil reconstruction plan submitted in the application to the State Conservationist for review and comment. The State Regulatory Authority shall consider any suggested revisions made by the State Conservationist.

(4) Issuance of permit. A permit for the mining and reclamation of prime farmland may be granted by the Regulatory Authority, if it first finds, in writing, upon the basis of a complete application, that --

(a) The approved proposed postmining land use of these prime farmlands will be suitable for determining if soil productivity is equivalent to surrounding non-mined lands of the same soil type;

(b) The permit incorporates as specific conditions the contents of the plan submitted under paragraph (2) of this Rule, after consideration of any revisions to that plan suggested by the Secretary of Agriculture under paragraph (3) of this Rule;

(c) The applicant has the technological capability to restore the prime farmland, within a reasonable time, to equivalent levels of yield as non-mined prime farmland in the surrounding area under equivalent levels of management; and

(d) The proposed operations will be conducted in compliance with the requirements of Rule 880-X-10G and other environmental protection performance and reclamation standards for mining and reclamation of prime farmland of the regulatory program.

(e) The aggregate total prime farmland acreage shall not be decreased from that which existed prior to mining. Water bodies, if any, to be constructed during mining and reclamation operations must be located within the post-reclamation non-prime farmland portions of the permit area. The creation of any such water bodies must be approved by the Alabama Surface Mining Commission and the consent of all affected property owners within the permit area must be obtained.

Author: Randall C. Johnson

(May 20, 1982; Amended: November 14, 1989; effective: March 7, 1991; Amended: September 18, 1990; effective: August 2, 1991.)

Statutory Authority: Code of Ala. 1975, §§ 9-16-71, 73, 74, 75, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 88, 90, 91, 92.

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