American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE


AGI Testifies on Geologic Mapping Legislation

(6-20-99)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies

On June 16th, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on H.R. 1528, the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999. The hearing was chaired by Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), himself a bill co-sponsor and former geologist, sitting in for ill chairwoman Barbara Cubin (R-WY). Witnesses included U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Chief Geologist P. Patrick Leahy; Association of American State Geologists President Larry Woodfork, state geologist of West Virginia; and American Geological Institute Treasurer William A. Thomas, geoscience professor at the University of Kentucky. All three witnesses expressed their support for the bill and for the partnership that it represents between the USGS, state surveys, and universities. In his testimony (which follows below), Thomas expressed AGI's support and then focused on the EDMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which provides matching funds for universities to train graduate students in geologic mapping on projects jointly undertaken with state geologic surveys or USGS.

Lead bill sponsor Cubin introduced H.R. 1528 on Earth Day, remarking that "geologists like to say that for them 'every day is Earth Day.' What better day than today to introduce the bill to keep the benefits of this important cooperative program flowing?" Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is lead sponsor of the Senate companion bill, S. 607, which was reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.

The new reauthorization bills contain a number of changes from the current law while retaining the program's basic structure of federal (USGS), state, and education components. Both call for the Secretary of the Interior to develop a 5-year plan for the USGS cooperative geologic mapping program with the advice and review of the program's advisory committee. They also call for the Secretary to submit a report to the House Committee on Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the program's process every two years. As authorization bills, they provide maximum funding levels through FY 2005, more than doubling the size of the program from $28 million in FY 1999 to $64 million in FY 2005. The actual funding levels, however, will vary depending on amounts appropriated annually and have yet to reach authorized levels. For more on this legislation, see the AGI update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/geomap99.html.

The National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 was last reauthorized two years ago. During legislative hearings on that reauthorization bill, University of Tennessee professor Bob Hatcher testified on EDMAP and -- as past AGI president -- lended AGI's support to the bill. For further information on the 1997 reauthorization effort, please see an earlier AGI update at: http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/ngmaup97.html.

Bill Thomas' testimony follows:

Statement by
William A. Thomas, M.S., Ph.D.
Professor of Geosciences, University of Kentucky
on behalf of the
American Geological Institute

Hearing on H.R. 1528: National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999

Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Committee on Resources
U.S. House of Representatives
June 17, 1999

I am pleased to be here today to speak as an active participant in the EDMAP program on behalf of reauthorization of the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992. My name is William A. Thomas. I am Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Kentucky, where I have just developed a new course in basic geosciences for undergraduate students in science, engineering, agriculture, and science education. A primary emphasis of that new course is on the use of geologic maps in solving real problems in the respective disciplines of the students. My own research and that of graduate students whose research I have directed is in field geology with emphasis on three-dimensional interpretations from geologic maps. I have been active in directing graduate students in geologic mapping in the context of the EDMAP component of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program since its inception.

I am also here to express the support of the American Geological Institute (AGI) for this important legislation. I currently serve as Treasurer on the Executive Committee of the Institute, which is a nonprofit federation of 34 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other Earth scientists. Founded in 1948, AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice for shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in mankind's use of resources and interaction with the environment. I am currently working with others in AGI to prepare a booklet for public information on the applications of geologic maps to human needs.

Perhaps no greater testimony to the crucial nature of geologic maps can be found than the strategic minerals mapping program during World War II. The demands of the war effort and the disruption of normal import channels threatened the adequacy of the supply of vital minerals. In order to locate undiscovered essential resources, a focused program of geologic mapping was instituted, and the urgency of the circumstances is reflected in the fact that some geologists, who were otherwise military-eligible, were deferred and assigned to the mapping effort. Although the normal depletion of natural resources does not reach the crisis-level crescendo of a world war, a program to systematically map and assess resource potential will allow the best possible long-range planning to sustain the supplies of necessary raw materials that fuel our national economy.

Geologic mapping is a long-term investment in the future of our economy, because most manufacturing depends upon natural resources from geologic materials, and geologic maps portray the spatial distributions of rocks and surficial materials that hold those resources. A typical user of natural resources, generally a corporation, cannot make the up-front investment of time and money to construct geologic maps of large regions such as whole states. However, when geologic maps are available, the corporate research effort can be focused on smaller areas which can be selected for their resource potential from the maps. In other words, the availability of a geologic map provides the information base that enables private investment to locate and develop resources. For example, the massive construction in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, severely stressed the local supply of cement. Available geologic maps were sufficiently detailed to generally focus the search for additional limestone suitable for cement manufacture; however, it was quickly realized that more detailed maps were needed for this specialized purpose. The scale of geologic maps prepared through the EDMAP program is suitable for this kind of resource development.

I could provide similar examples of other applications of geologic maps in, for example, coal-mine planning, oil and gas exploration, assessment of landslide hazards, and exploration for metals. Instead, I want to tell you about an EDMAP project with which I was involved and the application it addressed. A Girl Scout camp near Rome, Georgia, operated for many years as a primitive camp, using water from a large spring. In due course, although continuing to use the spring as a water supply, the camp was modernized with indoor plumbing, necessitating a septic tank and bleeder field. In the absence of a detailed geologic map, the septic field was placed on the area of exposure of the aquifer that fed the spring, and illnesses developed soon thereafter. Subsequent testing showed that water from a flush toilet reached the spring through the aquifer in less than 48 hours. The same aquifer is important as a domestic water supply in a large area around Rome, and my student Aaron Baldwin with EDMAP support and University of Kentucky matching funds made a geologic map of the aquifer and related rocks, so the recharge area is clearly delineated, and protection from contamination can be planned. This project illustrates the best of EDMAP. We developed our mapping plan in coordination with priorities of the geological survey of Georgia. The student received an education in the techniques of geologic mapping, interpretation of the underground three-dimensional extent of a particular rock, and the design of a research project to solve a problem. The finished map has been provided to USGS.

Let me show you our EDMAP product for the past year. This is a geologic map of an area northwest of Fort McClellan in Alabama. Springs supply the water for several towns in the area, and in addition to the standard observations in making a geologic map, my student Greg Graham located the larger springs in the context of rock types and geologic structures. Perhaps the colorful map does look like a piece of modern art, but it accurately shows the distribution of rock types at the surface in an area of complex geologic structures. Of particular importance, the map includes carefully measured angles of dip of the rock layers, so that rocks exposed at the surface can be geometrically projected below ground. Using this kind of data, we can calculate the depth necessary to drill to a particular rock layer at any particular locality. This is important in developing groundwater resources. For example, the rocks represented by the bright blue color on the map form the primary groundwater aquifer that is used for domestic water supplies in this part of Alabama. From the map we get two important pieces of information: (1) we can identify the area where the aquifer is at the surface and must be protected from contamination; and (2) for the many farms that use well water, we can predict the necessary depth to drill. My student who made this map learned the mapping techniques, as well as the interpretation of the rocks at depth; and we have provided the map to the USGS and the Alabama Geological Survey to be publicly available. This project exemplifies the dual objective of EDMAP: training of future mappers, and producing geologic maps. Greg Graham completed his M.S. degree a few weeks ago, and last week I provided a reference interview for the U.S. Forest Service in consideration of that agency's hiring this new graduate to map landslide potential in the Klamath Mountains.

Mine is but one of more than 40 institutions participating in EDMAP each year. In fiscal year (FY) 1999, EDMAP provided $382,150 to support mapping projects by 60 students in 41 universities in 29 states and the District of Columbia. From 1996 to 1999, the USGS has awarded $1,487,276 to 84 universities in 43 states and the District of Columbia; federal funds have been matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis by these universities, for a total investment of approximately $3 million. EDMAP has been funded at the authorized percentage (2% of program funds) since 1996. Proposals for EDMAP projects are coordinated with a state geological survey or USGS, and proposals are reviewed by a national panel of representatives from universities, state geological surveys, and USGS. I currently serve on the review panel, and I can attest to the high quality and careful planning exhibited in these proposed projects. Indeed, in this past year, well-qualified proposals with well-justified budget requests substantially exceeded available funds. Important issues addressed by EDMAP projects include groundwater assessment and protection, landslide hazards, mineral resource potential (both metallic and aggregate), mapping of National Park lands, and earthquake hazards. The proposals are specifically reviewed for a mentoring plan, wherein the supervising faculty member spends time in the field with the student mapper. The willingness of faculty to participate in this relatively time-consuming teaching activity is further testimony to the wide-spread support for the training of the next generation of geologic mappers.

Although the tangible products of EDMAP are geologic maps, the "ED" part is fundamental to the program. As in all fields of academic endeavor, students in the geosciences gravitate to the current hot topics in which research funding is available. In recent years, many of our academic institutions and funding agencies have emphasized laboratory science. Laboratory research has contributed to significant advances in a broad spectrum of the geosciences; however, students with laboratory training alone do not develop the perspective necessary to understand spatial relationships and three-dimensional projections in geologic maps. In other words, many of today's geoscience students are not educated in the preparation and use of geologic maps that provide information essential to sustain our economy and environment. In short, during the past 20 years, the number of geologic mappers being trained by university geology departments has decreased. At the same time that our educational system has shifted away from field mapping and into the laboratory, the accelerated growth of needs for new and more detailed geologic maps requires a systematic approach to the education of geologic mappers for the future. EDMAP represents a clear national incentive to expand our educational efforts in geologic mapping, and it attracts students to the topic. Already, EDMAP awards have helped to support the training of more than 220 future geologic mappers. These young mappers are beginning to enter the workforce and make a difference. Informal information indicates that previous EDMAP students have been hired by state geological surveys, oil companies, and environmental consulting companies.

A well-done geologic map provides a wealth of information as a basis for development of resources that fuel our economy and for protection of our living environment. The making of a geologic map requires a particular educational background, and EDMAP supports that education. I am convinced, and I hope that I have convinced you, of the vital role of EDMAP and the National Geologic Mapping Act. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.


Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted June 20, 1999


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