Conowingo Tunnel Proposal

The following excerpt is from The Conowingo Tunnel and the Anthracite Mine Flood-Control Project, by Michael C. Korb, P.E. The full text is available here.

“Between 1944 and 1954, engineers of the US Bureau of Mines carried out a comprehensive study resulting in more than 25 publications on all aspects of the mine water problem. The engineering study resulted in a recommendation of a fantastic and impressive plan to allow the gravity drainage of most of the Pennsylvania anthracite mines into the estuary of the Susquehanna River, below Conowingo, Maryland, by driving a 137-mile main tunnel with several laterals into the four separate anthracite fields. The $280 million (1954 dollars) scheme was not executed, but rather a $17 million program of pump installations, ditch installation, stream bed improvement and targeted strip-pit backfilling was initiated.

On the basis of the report by the Anthracite Mine Drainage Commission to the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Conowingo Tunnel Comprehensive Project was shelved, because of its magnitude and scope of expenditures, in favor of a short-range action plan of more limited scope and cost. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania and the 84th Congress of the U. S. enacted legislation that established a State-Federal Mine Drainage Program, for which a total appropriation of $17,000,000 was to be made available. The Federal government established a Branch of Mine Drainage in the USBM Branch of Anthracite, and the Pennsylvania legislation authorized the Department of Mines and Mineral Industries mine drainage program to formulate and execute projects under the acts and in accordance with administrative procedures between the agencies.

Actual work done under the State-Federal flood control program included installation or construction of three major types of facilities designed to assist the operating companies in their individual and cooperative efforts to reduce pumping costs and prevent the flooding of active mines:

1) Electrically driven deep-well pumps, of the vertical turbine type, to be placed in shafts or boreholes of idle and abandoned mines for the purpose of controlling the level of the mine water pools and preventing overflow into adjacent active mines.
2) Stream bed improvement to eliminate or at least materially reduce stream bed seepage by lining the old channels with concrete slabs or bituminous coatings, or by relocating channels onto noncaving or impervious ground or conducting the flow over broken and subsided surface in flumes or pipes made of wood, steel, or concrete.
3) Surface improvement to reduce surface seepage in certain limited critical areas by
grading or ditching for unimpeded run-off and by backfilling and grading crop falls and
abandoned stripping pits that are connected to underground workings.

Twenty-nine deep-well pump units (pump, motor, column line, and controls) plus five spare motors and seven spare bowls, were supplied for these projects. Twenty five of these were purchased with funds from the Federal-State Mine Water Control Program and four owned by the Commonwealth were supplied to the project. The twenty five
pumps were purchased at a cost of $4 million and the cost of installation, including some head frames, fencing, pumping platforms, discharge basins, and discharge lines, brought the total cost to $5,243,000 (~$72 million 2010$). The only pumps still in their original site are the two in Project 7 Tamaqua.”

Project 22, Askam Shaft, Truesdale Colliery.

Project 13, Buttonwood Shaft, Nottingham Colliery.

Project 1, Delaware Shaft, Pine Ridge Colliery

PA Coal Co No 14 Shaft (Hoyt Shaft), Ewen Colliery.

Project 5, Greenwood No 10 Shaft Tamaqua.

Our photos of the existing headframe.

Project 38, No 4 Shaft, Loomis Colliery.

Project 26, No 5 Shaft, South Wilkes Barre Colliery.

Project 7, Tamaqua No 14 Shaft.