County wrestling with old and new coal roads

Jan. 2—Daviess County officials have agreed to close one road to allow for coal mining and to put new efforts toward re-opening a long-closed road that was shut down as part of a mine.

REO Mining is operating a mine near CR 200 N. The company has asked to shut down the road while it mines through the area near CR 350 E.

"We sent out notification to the adjacent landowners. I think we have met everything. I think they will be going through there this spring," said Ed Hartzel with REO.

"At the end of the day, it is the private landowner who is selling the coal," said Daviess County Commissioner Nathan Gabhart. "There is always a risk when we close a road of getting it re-opened. The pros and cons have to be weighed. We have residents who want to sell the coal off of their ground. We are comfortable that we have worked it from every angle we can to make sure the road gets put back in 30 months."

Daviess County has had hundreds of coal mines over the years. The REO mine is the only one in operation now.

"They are showing there are five to seven years of coal south of CR 200 N.," said Hartzel. "They have a contract for three years for that coal with two one-year extensions."

One mine that is no longer in operation is the Billings Mine in eastern Daviess County. When the mine closed, CR 700 E. was left abandoned.

"We should have been more proactive when that mine shut down," said Daviess County Highway Supervisor Chris Winkler. "We thought we should start digging into it. The Billings Mine is next on the DNR list. We have it started. Our main goal is to get the road back."

Officials point out the closed down roadway has no one living on it and that may have cut into the urgency to get it back into service.

"CR 700 E. is a dead end road that goes nowhere. It is less worrisome, but the highway supervisor at the time is gone and two of the commissioners at the time are gone and the Billings mine is gone," said Gabhart. "When you have that kind of turnover it is not unusual to have something fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there were no homes that were impacted by this closure."

Even though there were no homes involved, the shut down road has limited the access of several to their land in the area.

"Without that road they are land locked," said landowner Mark Toy. "I know it is going to take a while. It just felt like the can kept getting kicked down the road. I just want to see it continue to roll."

Officials say the bond to put the road back still exists and plans are underway to use it to re-open CR 700 E.

"You have to get the bond re-activated. That requires the state to take action. Now, it is a process to work through," said Gabhart. "We will get it done for the landowners out there. And we will be getting it cleaned up."