Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dangerous mis-information on earth fissures

If you’re buying a home in Arizona, you may be sold a report telling you that there are no earth fissures affecting the property, but that may not be true.

This problem arose in recent months as a result of a confusing line in state legislation passed last year in House Bill 2779. Last year’s law says the Arizona Geological Survey will make available “maps of soils subject to fissures” so that anyone can look at the maps and see if their home or property is at risk. But soils don’t control earth fissures. Fissures form at depths of perhaps hundreds of feet, independent of the type of soil present at the surface. Thus, it is impossible to create maps to show “soils subject to fissures.”

There are companies that offer reports to homebuyers about things around a property that could affect your decision to buy – such as landfills, airports, asbestos, and yes, earth fissures. Some companies, however, appear to find the lack of maps of “soils subject to fissures” as evidence that fissures do not exist in the area and that’s what they write in their reports to buyers. That is a dangerous assumption to make.

There are two bills before the current state legislature to fix this problem – HB2323 and SB1338. They would correct the legislation passed last year that is causing the problems today.

Public safety will be improved when people are not led incorrectly to believe their properties are labeled as fissure-free.

What AZGS is doing, is to make detailed maps of earth fissures, which can be viewed and downloaded from the State Land Department website, with other maps layers such as topography and the road system. Those maps are being made area by area and will be released as each area is complete.

In the meantime, don’t assume the lack of a map is reason to believe that earth fissures don’t exist in an area.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Will stakeholder support sway legislature?

The AZGS budget will be voted on by the legislature's joint budget subcommittee at 9am on Monday, Jan. 29.

At last week's budget presentation, the committee talked about how limited new state revenues are expected to be and promised tough scrutiny of all proposed increases.

The governor's budget for AZGS includes ramping up two programs, in Mineral Resources and Natural Hazards. Political insiders say that for any budget increase to pass this year, they will need vigorous and vocal support from affected stakeholders; business,industry, local governments, and others.

For AZGS, our budget requests were based primarily on recommendations from our stakeholder community, so there is some reason to hope that will translate into support from the legislature.

Mining and mineral partnerships

At last week's presentation of the legislative and executive (i.e., governor's) budget proposals for AZGS, there was brief but animated discussion on the relative roles of the AZGS and our sister agency in Phoenix, the Dept. of Mines and Mineral Resources (DMMR)in mining and minerals duties. For years, there's been low-volume debate as to whether it's better to have three separate mining/minerals related agencies in state government (including the State Mine Inspector, the regulatory agency) or to merge two or all three of us. Every time it comes up, the conclusion is that each agency has distinct functions and responsibilities that serve our customers well in the present configuration.

The better solution, in my view, is the agencies working together more like a team, leveraging our resources. DMMR Director, Dr. Madan Singh is helping make this cooperation a reality. A couple of examples include DMMR providing office space for a new Phoenix-area branch operation of AZGS, our first-ever office out of Tucson. DMMR and AZGS will jointly have an exhibit at the upcoming Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, showcasing mining and minerals in Arizona. AZGS provided technical materials for the recent DMMR presentation about mining potential in Arizona at the Northwest Miner's Conference in Spokane, the big mining event in the nation this year.

It's a great partnership.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rosemont geology report enters controversy

Two weeks ago the AZGS released a new geologic map and report (1) on the Rosemont area of the Santa Rita Mountains, where a copper mine is proposed.

The mine is stirring up opposition to its potential environmental and visual impacts. This has led to erroneous claims that our report states the mine site is geologically unstable. Unfortunately, the Pima County supervisors included this mistaken claim in their resolution unanimously opposing the mine.

As a result, the mischaracterization of our geologic report was getting wider circulation including being used to justify a call to change designation of the federal lands involved. Before this went further, I felt we needed to clarify just what our report did and did not say. I sent letters to Richard Elias, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Ray Carroll, pointing out the problems. We have posted these letters on the AZGS website (www.azgs.az.gov – the link is bottom center).

In my letter to Supervisor Elias, I wrote,

“Our report is a geologic study of the rocks at the Earth’s surface in the Rosemont area. It makes no comments about any possible or proposed mine or mine pit design, nor does it specifically address any mining engineering issues. It certainly does not address the stability of any rock units in the map area under present conditions or under possible mining conditions. Mine design and pit wall stability are issues dealt with by mining engineers, and were not addressed in our geological report.

The faults mapped and described in the report are remnants of the forces that created the mountains millions of years ago and we found no evidence that they are active. The geometry of the faults and rock units in the map area is described by our report which can be used by mining engineers as one of many resources in designing a mine.”

It is in no ones interest to have misinformation circulating about such an important issue. On one hand, it raises unfounded concerns about the mine, and on the other, it brings into question the credibility of the mine opponents arguments.

There is a serious debate going on about mining in the region and the resulting impacts, both good and bad. I hope our clarification of the geologic report can help focus the discussion on the real issues at hand.

(1) “Geologic Map of the Rosemont area, northern Santa Rita Mountains, Pima County, Arizona,” by Bradford Johnson and Charles Ferguson, AZGS Digital Geologic Map 59.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

AZGS budget hearing January 22

The Legislature hearing on the AZGS budget is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, January 22 in room SHR109 in front of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Natural.

The panel will consider Governor Napolitano's request to fund new efforts at AZGS in Mineral Resource Development and Natural Hazards Response and Mitigation.

Governor proposes Natural Hazard Response & Mitigation Program at AZGS

Governor Napolitano’s budget includes funds to develop a Natural Hazards Response and Mitigation program at AZGS. The goal is to improve Arizona’s insufficient ability to respond to and mitigate the increasing natural hazards threat to life and property.


Governor’s proposal for a Natural Hazards Response and Mitigation Program:
The Governor’s plan states, “The costs and risks of catastrophic natural hazards can be greatly reduced through meeting State, county and municipal agencies’ requests for
assessment of potential for flooding, debris flows, landslides, rock falls, and expansive soils. The Executive recommends $67,500 and 1.0 FTE position for FY 2008 and $48,100 and 1.0 FTE for FY 2009 for, respectively, an engineering geologist and a geo-technician. It is anticipated that funding for the geologist position will be self-sustaining by FY 2009 by charging fees for developer’s reports and other services that the position would provide.

Natural hazards are an increasing threat to life and property in Arizona: Arizona is subject to a wide array of natural hazards including floods, debris flows, landslides and lateral erosion, earth fissures, expansive soils, and earthquakes. As population grows in our urban areas, we are seeing increased development in areas previously avoided such as flood prone areas in apparently dry channels in distributary fans, zones of earth fissures, canyon mouths subject to debris flows and others.

FEMA floodplain maps do not reveal the danger of Arizona’s flooding hazards: Water in Arizona often flows through ephemeral channels in distributary fans that may serve as primary channels for a number of years before shifting to new paths, especially during floods. National flood hazard assessments are based on geologic conditions more typical of the eastern U.S. where channels and flood plains are well defined and long lasting. As a result, many areas of sedimentary fans in Arizona are subject to flooding even though they are not in flood plains and are not subject to FEMA flood insurance requirements. Typically, unless homeowners are in a defined flood hazard zone, they are unaware of the hazards and do not take appropriate measures such as obtaining flood insurance.

The new earth fissure maps do not deal with policy dilemmas, or mitigation measures: Newly enacted earth fissure mapping addresses two key elements of a natural hazards program, identification and public information. However, once the maps are prepared and released, state and local agencies have to cope with the consequences. There are no guidelines on how to develop in fissure zones, whether setbacks are appropriate and if so, how extensive they should be, what mitigation techniques can be applied, or whether fissures can be inactive permanently. AZGS has formed an Earth Fissure Advisory Board with representatives from state and local agencies, realtors, and other stakeholders to discuss these issues and try to prepare map users for their release.

One of the most important recommendations is to develop published guidelines on the preparation of geologic/geotechnical/hazards reports that are produced to meet state and local requirements. It is our expectation that Arizona-specific guidelines can be created from extant guidelines in Colorado, Utah, and California, among other states. While voluntary, such guidelines provide standards that can be adopted by local government or other entities. In states where voluntary guidelines are in place, they have become widely accepted and generally improved the standard of practice.

Current natural hazard identification and mitigation procedures are inadequate: Natural hazard identification and mitigation is generally done at the local government level, where appropriate expertise is often non-existent.

In conjunction with voluntary guidelines, AZGS needs to provide consulting and advisory services to affected agencies to evaluate and critique submitted reports. Most agencies and almost all local governments do not have geologic expertise to effectively review and respond to these reports. AZGS would advise the receiving agencies as to the completeness and adequacy of said reports and if requested, provide recommendations on how to deal with any natural hazards disclosed in them.

All reports reviewed by AZGS should be entered into a digital, online natural hazards bibliography (“Haz-Bib”), available to consultants, developers, governments, home-buyers, etc. The ready availability of natural hazards information will help ensure that problems identified in an area will not be overlooked on adjacent or nearby properties. It will help developers more readily evaluate hazards prior to investing in lands then feeling pressured to have to move forward to recover their costs.

Geotechnical borings are raising costs of development: Provisions of the Uniform Building Code (UBC) require geotechnical information for foundations of a large number of types of buildings in Arizona that can only be obtained through expensive borings. These borings are being drilled at each building site even though the geotechnical characteristics may be relatively uniform over wide areas. There are complaints that this redundancy is unnecessarily expensive.

The AZGS could serve as a repository for geotechnical borings and the associated analytical results and make them available to local governments, geotechnical consultants, and developers to better share results obtained by the private sector. These data would also allow AZGS or others to construct detailed maps of geotechnical characteristics. Such maps would be an invaluable tool for highway and infrastructure planning in addition to the original use in building foundation work.

Arizona has insufficient ability to deal with natural hazards issues: For the past decade, AZGS activities in natural hazards has been largely restricted to detailed geologic mapping in urban and urbanizing areas, identified as high priority by the Survey’s external mapping advisory committee.

A modest increase in state support to address natural hazards in Arizona is justified and within reason. Arizona ranks last in the nation in per capita spending on its state geological survey, among all the states reporting. Even among surrounding states, Arizona fares poorly in comparison. California spends about fours times as much, Colorado nearly five times, Nevada 5.3 times, Utah more than 11 times, and New Mexico over 13 times as much per capita as does Arizona. Yet Arizona has more mineral production than any of them and is only slightly behind Nevada in population growth.

Stakeholder recommendations: We consulted with leaders in Arizona’s relevant state agencies and professional and trade groups. Their recommendations have been integrated with those from our last external agency review (2) and can be summarized into four core areas with the advocating entities in parentheses:

1. Identify hazards and assess risk

2. Develop guidelines for the preparation of geologic reports in Arizona.

3. Serve as technical advisors and reviewers for state and local agencies that receive geological/geotechnical reports; create a publicly available repository of geotechnical reports (“Haz-Bib”).

4. Establish a repository for geotechnical borings used to determine criteria to meet building codes.


References Cited:

Report of the Arizona Geological Survey Review Committee, by the American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arizona section, AZGS Open-file Report 97-20, 1997, 67p.

Governor calls for Mineral Resources program at AZGS

Gov. Napolitano’s budget proposes funding a renewed effort in AZGS for a Mineral Resource Development Program.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the AZGS budget at 9am, Monday, January 22 in room SHR109.

Governor’s proposal for the Mineral Resources Development Program
The Governor’s budget plan states, “The Geological Survey provides a State service that critically affects growth and development, as major industries and growing communities require reliable maps and data. The Executive recommends $96,600 and 1.0 FTE position in FY 2008 and $149,700 and 1.0 FTE position in FY 2009 to allow the Survey to better provide technical support to State agencies, local governments and the public on strategic mineral planning and natural resource issues. The recommendation for FY 2008 includes funding for a hardrock minerals geologist and $20,000 in ongoing professional and outside services. The FY 2009 recommendation provides one more FTE position, a database manager to develop a system for interoperability among state mineral resources and compile a central repository for all of the state’s mineral information.”

The proposal would restore the AZGS capability in mineral resources, working with one of the largest sectors in the state economy, to assess the technical, economic, and environmental impacts of resource development, to advise state and local agencies on resource issues, identify mineral resources, and expand our repository capacity for geologic samples. This initiative is consistent with the AZGS Mission Statement: “To inform and advise the public about the geologic character of Arizona in order to foster understanding and prudent development of the State's land, water, mineral, and energy resources”

Minerals are a major economic sector in Arizona: The value of nonfuel mineral production in Arizona in 2005 was $4.730 billion, which was 9.17% of the U.S. total, and made Arizona the number one producer in the nation and number one in copper and molybdenum production specifically. Coal production added another $300 million to bring the total to $5 billion (1).

Arizona accounts for 63% of U.S copper production and the state’s copper industry has a $3.5 billion direct and indirect impact on the Arizona economy. Seven Arizona counties had active copper mining in 2005. Arizona also ranks among the leaders in gemstones, perlite, sand and gravel, silver, and zeolites.

“Rock products produced in Arizona include sand, gravel, and crushed stone, cement, asphalt, and ready-mix concrete and are directly tied to economic growth, building activity, and repair and expansion of transportation infrastructure. Production of rock products in 2004 resulted in a direct and indirect economic impact of $3.5 billion resulting in the support of 25,190 jobs. Rock products had a direct payroll expenditure of $364 million covering 9,388 jobs” (2).

There is a strongly renewed interest in exploration for copper and uranium across the state and region. Industry is looking for any and all information to help them in the search for new reserves. State Lands have potential for both hard rock and industrial minerals.

Land use planning and continued economic growth need good minerals and geologic information: Mining is regulated at the local level where geologic expertise is generally not available. Industrial mineral deposits and operations are increasingly under pressure from urbanization, at the same time the demand for the resources is growing to meet development needs. In other states, lack of resource assessment and planning has resulted in big increases for building and infrastructure costs. Studies done in Minnesota (4, 5) are applicable nationwide. They found that gravel is expensive to transport. At about 15 cents per ton per mile, a standard 25-ton truckload will cost $37.50 to haul 10 miles but $187.50 to haul 50 miles. The gravel itself costs about $6.50 per ton. So transportation costs exceed the cost of the rock at transportation distances of about 44 miles.

Construction of a new home requires about 120 tons of aggregate, which is used in everything from the driveway to concrete blocks, paint, sheet metal and roofing tiles. The construction of a typical “big box” retail store will require about 50,000 tons of aggregate. One mile of four-lane highway uses about 20,000 tons of aggregate (5).

Thus, when local sand and gravel quarries close in an urban area, the cost to bring resources from outside the urban zone can cause a significant increase in building costs due to transportation. It is important to determine the location and extent of mineral resources early in land use planning.

Environmental impacts of mining: Mining operations are considerably cleaner and less polluting than in the early days of the state but many are also much larger and use new approaches that have potentially serious consequences if not managed and regulated correctly. There are also numerous old mines and tailings that operated before comprehensive regulations were in place.

It is important to analyze the aqueous geochemistry of mine tailings and surrounding basins for potential impacts on groundwater from such things as sulfate plumes.


Arizona has limited ability to deal with mineral issues:
AZGS lost its last position in Mining/Economic Geology due to budget cuts in 2002. Arizona is unique among western mining states in not having the ability to carry out unbiased scientific and technical assessments of mineral resources and their impacts in the state. It is especially concerning in that Arizona was the number one minerals producing state in the nation in 2005 and is also one of the fasting growing states, resulting in dramatic increase in demands for industrial minerals and consequent land use conflicts. Arizona is also a prime exploration target for minerals such as copper and uranium. Other states with strong mining sectors in the economy have state geological surveys that are primarily focused on minerals issues, such as Nevada and Idaho, whereas Arizona has strongly downsized its capacity in the last 15 years to handle mineral resources challenges, problems, and potential.

For the past decade, AZGS activities in mineral resources has been largely restricted to detailed geologic mapping in the state, identified by the mining industry as one of the most important contributions we can make to their exploration and development programs. However, in recent years, the Survey’s external mapping advisory committee has directed us to focus on natural hazards mapping in urban and urbanizing areas.

Stakeholder recommendations: We consulted with leaders in Arizona’s mining industry, relevant state agencies, and professional and trade groups. Their recommendations have been integrated with those from our last external agency review (5) and can be summarized into four core areas:

1. Identify and characterize key mineral reserves, both metallic and industrial, in currently developed areas and areas with potential for development

This would include mapping of deposits and mineral districts, analytical work on
samples including petrology, age-dating, geochemistry, fluid inclusions, thin
sections, plus reserve calculations and estimates, and economic impact analyses.
This would be done in co-operation with the Arizona Dept. of Mines and Mineral
Resources which maintains an extensive collection of reports, analyses, and
historical data.

2. Create map-based (GIS) data sets and make them available online. This would include setting up an enterprise geo-database using a network server with internet map services (IMS) and GIS-based web services. We are already in consultation with the State Cartographer’s Office to ensure interoperability between AZGS datasets and the State’s GIS clearinghouse products in accordance with ARS 37-173.

3. Educational outreach to state agencies, local government, and the general public on strategic mineral planning and natural resource issues.

This would include serving as technical advisors to state and local agencies, providing materials and briefings on mineral economics, environmental impacts, and resource availability. We would draw on help to achieve this from staff soon to be hired in the AZGS Geologic Extension Service, a newly created section reprogrammed with internal resources.

4. Preserve and analyze mineral and geologic samples (mostly cores) at risk of being destroyed or disposed of, as an exploration resource.

This requires acquisition of warehouse space for additional samples and examination space, plus hiring of a geo-technician to maintain the facility, selectively acquire new samples, and work with industry and other researchers to prepare and analyze samples.

References Cited

1. Arizona 2005 Mining Review, Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources, 2006, 6p.

2. Natural Resources Impact, Mining Foundation of the Southwest, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2005.

3. Aggregate Resources Inventory of the Seven-County Metropolitan Area, Minnesota, Minnesota Geological Survey, Information Circular 46, 2000, 91p.

4. Gravel – Bedrock of Growth, Minnesota Star-Tribune, June 16, 2002

5. Report of the Arizona Geological Survey Review Committee, by the American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arizona section, AZGS Open-file Report 97-20, 1997, 67p.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Good news, bad news at NSF

Margaret Leinen is leaving NSF. That’s the bad news. Margaret’s been Assistant Director for Geosciences (“GEO”), which includes the Earth Sciences, Atmospheres, and Oceans divisions, for the past seven years. She’s viewed by community insiders as an effective advocate for the geosciences within NSF, and one of the most articulate spokespersons for science up on Capitol Hill. Margaret was also constantly working to build better synergy and cooperation among the geosciences. We’re losing a friend and ally and a visionary in the profession. Interestingly, according to Science, she’s going to work for Climos, a start-up company dealing with climate change, run by her son, who sold his online reservation business for $750 million.

The good news is that before she leaves, Margaret appointed Art Goldstein as head of the Earth Sciences Division ("EAR"). Art came to NSF a year ago from geo department head at Colgate University, to serve as a section chief in EAR. With the retirement of Herm Zimmerman shortly after he arrived, Art moved in the Acting Director slot.

With the formal appointment, I think we can look forward to a dynamic approach from Art in working to advance the nation’s earth sciences community.

I’ve known Art since we were both PhD students under Don Wise at UMass, Amherst a quarter century ago. I joke with him that after a couple decades in academia, the DC politics should be child’s play. Seriously, though, Art listens, is as fair-minded as you’d want, and not afraid to take on the toughest issues. He’s already a force in jumpstarting the earth sciences community in lots of areas. Exciting times lie ahead.

Thank you, Margaret and good luck, Art!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Science is central to Governor's agenda

Read through Gov. Napolitano’s State of the State address given today and you’ll see that science is central to much of what she proposes.

Her themes are Education, Foundation, and Innovation - Education with a focus on expanding math and science in K-12; Foundation means infrastructure and includes ensuring we have the water resources to support our growing population; and “Innovation Arizona will create an environment that attracts high-wage businesses, allows thinkers and entrepreneurs to flourish, and cultivates success. [It] is going to continue to build on the work we’ve begun to transform Arizona into a center of research by continuing the necessary funding to foster Science Foundation AZ to success.”


Arizona’s earth scientists have an important role in dealing with the consequences of growth – demand for water and minerals, creation of risks associated with natural hazards, and environmental impacts. The Governor’s Global Climate Change initiative also needs earth science input for monitoring and analysis but also for finding locations for possible geological sequestration (i.e., permanent burial) of carbon dioxide.

And while many think primarily of biosciences when we talk about attracting new high-tech industry or incubating the next success story here, we should be looking at one of Arizona’s existing scientific strengths – the earth sciences.

Gov. Napolitano singled out the Arizona Water Institute as an R&D center that will continue to get state attention. AWI co-housed with SAHRA (Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas) at the UofA. [My colleagues at NSF tell me SAHRA is one of the most highly regarded Science and Technology Centers the organization funds]. The AWI operational model is in my view amazingly robust and innovative. AWI has principals on each of the three state universities. Plus, they are embedding strong personnel in each of the major state agencies.

The SAHRA-AWI combo is emerging as a global leader in innovative approaches to water resources. It could be the poster child of scientific (and organizational) innovation in Arizona.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Grand Canyon redux

The controversy over the politization of the origin and age of the Grand Canyon fired up with the release of a letter from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) to the National Park Service (http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=801) and a press release entitled, “How Old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won’t Say — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology.”

Contrast that with Gov. Janet Napolitano’s call at her inauguration: "It is that 'One Arizona' that I dream of. 'One Arizona' in which the quality of the education of our children is so good, they compete with pride with the best graduates from every corner of the world. 'One Arizona' that, because of that education foundation, is a place where science and research flourish, where cures are found, and technology is advanced."

During the entire six years I spent in Kansas before moving to Arizona a year ago, I was enmeshed in the evolution controversy. Two weeks after arriving in Kansas as the newly appointed State Geologist in 1999, I was standing in front of the State Board of Education, unsuccessfully urging them to reject the proposed science curriculum standards ghost-authored by a leader of the young-earth creationist movement. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year described how Kansas suffered because of its almost universal perception as hostile to science and quality public education brought on by the relentless attacks on teaching of evolution.

Arizona’s been lucky in not being tarred like Kansas has. It’s the Park Service that has the black eye here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What are scientists optimistic about? Well, a lot, it turns out.

Some of the most fascinating reading to kick off the new year is found at the Edge World Question Center - http://edge.org/q2007/q07_index.html. Edge is an online discussion forum which began in December, 1996 as an email to about fifty people. It had more than five million individual user sessions in 2006.

The annual question posed to the Edge online discussion community this year is “What are you optimistic about and why?” It drew responses from 160 world leaders in science and thinking. [Last year’s question dealt with “dangerous ideas.”] The answers span all kinds of topics and disciplines, but the breadth and depth of the optimism is wonderfully fulfilling.

Now, perhaps some of the optimism seems na├»ve or unrealistic but this is not another round of those classic old annual predictions about technological breakthroughs (I’m still wondering when to expect my flying car, free energy, and that thoroughly satisfying job that requires only 4 hours a day).

No, these are thoughtful essays with a big emphasis on the “why” aspect of the question.

One of the respondents, Adam Bly, editor-in-chief of Seed magazine (one of my ‘must-reads’), gave compelling reasons to support his belief that “science is recapturing the attention and imagination of world leaders.”

So, when you’re worn down by the daily news cycle and the seemingly relentless attacks on science, let me recommend a bit of intellectual dessert by spending 5 minutes with one of this year’s responses about why scientists are optimistic.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration in expansion mode

The School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) became official this past fall and has been promised 14 new faculty positions by the ASU administration. SESE Director Kip Hodges says the hiring will likely be spread over a few years.

ASU is also committing to a new building for SESE in time for the 2009 school year.

Arizona is already a powerhouse in the earth sciences. This expansion at ASU is an incredible endorsement of the importance of geology to the future of the state.

Should Arizona geology students learn section-township-range?

The Geology Instructional Council for the Maricopa Community Colleges is taking a poll to assess the need for teaching students the Land Office Grid system of location using township/range/section. The question arose during their examination of the core competencies for the foundation courses in geology. They ask, “with the prevalence of GPS systems so widespread, does industry want or need colleges to continue to train students in the land grid system?”

It seems to me this is the same question raised when calculators became widespread. Should students still have to know how to do math?

The answer seems obvious. Would any of us hire someone in a geology or geotech position who could not read a map to find a STR location? Much of our ‘legacy’ data is in the form of the land grid. Those locations still need to be interpreted the old fashion way. And, without the basic skills, you can never tell when the instruments you’re using, such as GPS devices are giving you bad data.

Dr. Gary Calderone at MCC is inviting comments at gary.calderone@gcmail.maricopa.edu

Monday, January 01, 2007

Arizona lives and dies by its geology

Arizonans depend on groundwater for life, minerals to build our communities and create jobs, and amazing geologic scenery for tourism and our own enjoyment. Arizona recently became the fastest growing state in the nation, putting increased demands on our natural resources and reigniting concerns about the environmental impact of all this growth. Then there are natural disasters such as floods, landslides, debris flows, earth fissures, and earthquakes that threaten our homes and lives.

On top of that, our university geology programs are among the best in the country. We are the number one mining state in the nation and global demand for copper and uranium are drawing renewed interest in mineral exploration. The State's expanded Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring 15% of our electricity to come from renewable energy sources, is generating re-examination of our geothermal resources.

Clearly, understanding our geology is critical to all Arizonans. Yet, one of the things I noticed when I came to Tucson a year ago is the fragmented nature of news coverage around Arizona. There is no state-wide newspaper or tv news. As a result, important geology-related news reported in one metropolitan area is often ignored elsewhere around the state.

The intersection of all this creates a need for collecting and sharing current activities, news, and opinions in the geosciences within the Arizona earth science community and to broader audiences. So, this site is an experiment.

My job as State Geologist of Arizona encompasses different responsibilities from my task as Director of the Arizona Geological Survey, giving me reign to work to ensure a healthy, dynamic, and robust earth science enterprise to benefit the State and the profession.

Within that scope, I'd like to try using this forum to
1. share news, ideas, opinions, and help foster a greater community sense in the geosciences,
2. reach out to the larger community to let them know how the geosciences affect all our lives, and
3. re-engage the public in better understanding of the nature and process of science.

Lee Allison
State Geologist and Director
Arizona Geological Survey