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Preserved Lands

Solar Mine Abandoned Mine Drainage Treatment System

The Solar Mine Discharge is located in Findlay Township, Allegheny County, near Bald Knob. This discharge resulted from construction of Section 54C of the Findlay Connector, part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's Southern Beltway project. The settling ponds of the treatment system are visible from the road shoulder, just past the Bavington-Santiago Exit of I-576 westbound. The bulk of the treatment system is a large limestone bed called an Anoxic Limestone Drain or ALD which lies deep under I-576. As the mine water passes through the ALD, iron is removed by chemical reaction with the limestone. Water then flows to the ponds and wetlands where even more iron settles out.

The Solar Mine Treatment System removes about 96 tons of iron yearly from the headwaters of St. Patrick's Run, a western tributary to Raccoon Creek. In 2007, Independence Conservancy retained Hedin Environmental of Pittsburgh to assess existing site conditions and develop maintenance strategies to maximize the useful life of the system. $25,000 in funding for the engineering study was provided by Canaan Valley Institute. Hedin found that the system is highly effective at removing iron and reducing acidity, and, with proper maintenance, should remain functional for another 30 years or more.

Solar Mine AMD Treatment System


Rocky Bottom Natural Area

Rocky Bottom Natural Area is Independence Conservancy’s newest preserved property. Donated to us in 2010 by Horsehead Corporation, these two parcels are dedicated by deed restriction to low-impact, non-motorized public access to the banks and waters of Raccoon Creek.  

With a half-mile of frontage on a beautiful and well-loved stretch of Raccoon Creek, Independence Conservancy's lands lie upstream and downstream of Potter Township's Tank Farm on Raccoon Creek Road. The Tank Farm and Rocky Bottom are jointly managed as Rocky Bend Nature Preserve, Beaver County's newest public park.

Rocky Bottom is a special place – not only because generations of people have grown to love its quiet beauty – but because of its ecological value. Beaver County’s Natural Heritage Inventory marks the lower Raccoon Creek Biological Diversity Area as a significant forest habitat; the Audubon Society of Western PA designates it as an Important Birding Area and the Nature Conservancy recognizes it as part of the Ohio River Corridor, an area of global significance!

Rocky Bottom, as the upstream part of Rocky Bend Nature Preserve, plus the whole Raccoon Creek valley in Potter Township, is protected by Potter Township’s Natural Heritage Zone. The natural Heritage Zone protect's Raccoon Creek's green corridor, as recommended in the Township's Comprehensive Plan, Beaver County’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan and the 2007 Beaver County Greenways & Trails Plan. Green corridors are natural connections between places. They offer opportunities for recreation, water supply, agriculture, flood control, wildlife habitat, scenic views and a host of natural values that give character to the places we call home. 

Visitors to Rocky Bottom can enjoy a quiet float or paddle on the Raccoon Creek Canoe Trail, wade or fish in the creek, or possibly even see a pair of bald eagles gliding among the treetops.

Independence Conservancy has retained KU Resources, Inc. of Duquesne, PA to design the Rocky Bottom Public Access area on Raccoon Creek Road as part of the buildout of Rocky Bend Nature Preserve. Below is an artist's rendering of the proposed project. Future improvements such as parking, signage, boardwalks and picnic areas will depend on direct public support – donations of money, time or materials.

Rocky Bottom Public Access artist's rendering


Red Oak Farm Conservation Easement

Red Oak Farm in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, contains 44 acres of mature hardwoods and open fields in the headwaters of Fish Pot Run, a secluded tributary of Raccoon Creek. From the joint efforts of the McConnell Family, Independence Conservancy, and the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, the farm is permanently protected with a conservation easement.

The McConnells have returned fallow fields to productivity with dozens of fruit trees and a large vegetable garden specializing in heirloom tomatoes.

The dedication ceremony, held on September 23, 2007, can be viewed here:


Little Blue Wetland

Little Blue Wetland is an eight-acre mitigation wetland built by First Energy during the expansion of Little Blue Reservoir in 2007. Independence Conservancy holds a perpetual conservation easement on this parcel to assure that it always remains a haven for songbirds and aquatic life. Located on Red Dog Road in Greene Township, Little Blue Wetland features a shallow emergent wetland, nesting boxes for wood ducks and bluebirds, and a varied-depth aquatic habitat planted in native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees.

Little Blue Wetland



JB2 Abandoned Mine Discharge

The JB2 Abandoned Mine Discharge Treatment System was Independence Conservancy's first AMD project. It treats an abandoned mine drainage seep, Joffree Branch 2, located on Cherry Valley Road near Burgettstown in Washington County which used to dump over 60 tons of iron and 8 tons of aluminum each year into the headwaters of Raccoon Creek. The JB2 seep was targeted for cleanup by the Raccoon Creek Watershed AMD Survey and Restoration Plan completed in 2000.

Many organizations and agencies teamed up with Independence Conservancy and the Raccoon Creek Watershed Association to treat the JB2 Discharge.

Independence Conservancy accepted the donation of property surrounding the JB2 discharge to build a Vertical Flow Wetland, a passive system which removes the iron compounds and acidity.

The Washington County Conservation District secured construction grants from the US Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining, the PA Department of Environmental Protection's Southwest Regional Office and the DEP Growing Greener Grants Program. Construction began in the fall of 2003 and was completed in the fall of 2004 at a total cost of $422,535.

Over time, the high concentration of iron in the discharge water repeatedly clogged the system.  In 2009, the Vertical Flow Wetland was converted to a FeAlMn Bed, a different type of passive treatment system which is more effective at treating the JB2 discharge. FeAlMn stands for Iron (Fe), Aluminum (Al) and Manganese (Mn), common pollutants in Acid Mine Drainage.

Independence Conservancy owns, operates and maintains the JB2 AMD Treatment System as a major component in eliminating Acid Mine Drainage pollution from Raccoon Creek, thereby restoring water quality, wildlife habitat and recreational values for the entire watershed.