Reclamation Law and Legal Definition

Reclamation generally refers to restoring something to usefulness. Established in 1902, the Bureau of Reclamation is best known for the dams, powerplants, and canals it constructed in the 17 western states. These water projects led to homesteading and promoted the economic development of the West. Reclamation has constructed more than 600 dams and reservoirs including Hoover Dam on the Colorado River and Grand Coulee on the Columbia River.

The Congress of the United States has enacted Public Law 95-87, the "Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977," which provides for the establishment of a nationwide program to promote reclamation of mined areas in the country left without adequate reclamation to be funded by a reclamation fee paid by all surface coal mining operators.

Reclamation law of states often involves financing of abandoned mining sites and establishing an abandoned mine land reclamation fund to finance restoration of land that had been mined and abandoned. Reclamation law determines how the costs of constructing reclamation projects are allocated and how repayment responsibilities are assigned among the projects’ beneficiaries.