By Carrie Searcy
Office of the Secretary
2017 has been a big year for the Kentucky Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) as they hosted the 39th Annual Conference for the National Association of Abandoned Mine Lands Programs (NAAMLP) Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, September 24-27, at the Hyatt Regency.
Attended by 31 States and Tribes that make up the NAAMLP, the goal of the conference according to AML Director Bob Scott, isn’t just for making connections and spreading a wealth of information, but it is also about solidifying voices behind much needed AML funding.
“The next four years are critical for AML program funding which is set to expire in 2021,” said Scott. “We are also trying now to push the RECLAIM Act of 2017, which will release $1 billion in funds to reclaim, repair and spur economic development in areas that most need it the most across the Commonwealth.”
Programs like the RECLAIM Act and the AML Pilot program were hot topics as the additional funding and partnerships produced better work and resource utilization, but there were also opportunities for the visitors from across the U.S. to take full advantage of the diverse beauty and attractions of the Commonwealth. AML Pilot Projects include reclaimed mines that had been made into industrial parks, tourism projects and more job creation opportunities with some out of the box thinking.
“We had sessions, awards, tours, and good food of course,” said Scott. “Each tour features some element of reclamation mining, but they all take advantage of Kentucky culture. Some had a stop at a distillery for some Kentucky Bourbon, but we also offered horse farms, Louisville Sluggers and Red River Gorge to just name a few.”
The three day event opened with a plenary session on Monday, September 25 and followed with 46 technical sessions for the three day span, covering AML reclamation issues. Monday concluded with an awards banquet to honor the nation reclamation award winners and outstanding individuals.
On Tuesday, both conference attendees and vendors packed up to go on a choice of six tours that highlighted different key AML components from around the area. Louisville Megacavern, Cane Run Watershed Restoration Project, and Bowie Refined Coal. The tour to UK’s underground blast laboratory had to be cancelled due to a roof fall, but a visit to the Royal Springs Water treatment plant and Ward Hall Historical home in Georgetown were substituted in its place.
“I went on the Limestone Legacy Tour,” said Bill Krippaehne, owner of Pacific Inter-Mountain Distribution, LLC out of Kalispell, Montana. “Kentucky and AML, it is the best of both worlds. I love coming to Lexington and the people here at the conference are so real and genuinely caring for the environment and that’s true for everybody, not just the regulators, and that’s really special.”
Tuesday wrapped up with dinner at historic Manchester Music Hall with live music performed by the Local Honeys, and also Dan Conn and the Travelin Kind. Wednesday morning closed out the event with one last round of sessions featuring the regional and national award winning projects.
“It was really an honor to host this year’s event,” said Scott. “Everything went great and I hope everyone left with something they can take back with them. It’s all about sharing resources and improving what we have and achieving more through collaboration.”
Photos courtesy of the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands.