NR 2002-15
April 15, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO – The California Geological Survey, part of the Department of Conservation, has been awarded a $333,630 grant from the federal government to complete important mapping projects in seven counties.

The grant was the largest issued this year and the largest ever received by the CGS through the STATEMAP portion of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, administered by the U.S. Geological Survey.

"We’re pleased and proud that the federal program recognized the importance of the work proposed by the California Geological Survey and chose to fully fund our grant request," DOC Director Darryl Young said.

CGS will use most of the funding to update or create digital geologic maps in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and Ventura counties.

A geologic map shows distribution of earth materials such as rocks and landslides and structural features such as faults and folded strata. Text on the maps provides information on the geologic age of the materials as well as their physical properties. A geologist can deduce geologic history, potential occurrence of valuable minerals, as well as possible geologic hazards in the mapped area. Modern maps are in digital form, extending their usefulness in decision-making by allowing geologic information to be combined with other data, such as demographics or infrastructure.

Geologic maps serve as the basis for other, more detailed work. In the grant request, CGS and an advisory committee targeted areas designated by the Seismic Hazard Zone Mapping Program for future zoning. Seismic Hazard Zone maps define areas that are more likely to experience the secondary earthquake hazards of liquefaction and landslides during a large earthquake. Local building departments must require site-specific geologic investigations before construction can begin in zoned areas to ensure the safety of buildings.

"The geologic mapping program is driven by where the population is and where the hazards are," State Geologist James Davis explained. "Some people are under the impression that once you do a geological map of a location it never has to be done again. But when you get down to the scale needed for our Seismic Hazard Zone maps – one inch equals 2,000 feet, or better – the older maps where one inch equals a mile don’t work."

The National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program came about because the Association of State Geologists recognized that geologic mapping was not keeping up with other endeavors. Older geologic maps were prepared at too small a scale and on older base maps so that they were not precise enough for the current demands of geologic hazards mapping.

Most if not all states participate in the competitive grant program annually. CGS has received $1,415,592 through STATEMAP, which has awarded $36 million to state entities since 1993. The grants to CGS, paired with nearly $1.2 million in state money, has made possible mapping work in 16 counties. The results have been incorporated into decision-making on a wide variety of local and regional issues, including geologic-hazard mitigation, land-use planning and identifying potential mineral resources.

"Nowhere in the U.S. are so many people confronted with as many geologic hazards as they are in California," Davis noted. "More than 75 percent of the state’s 35 million people reside in seismically active coastal regions. Dollar losses due to earthquakes, landslides and other geologic hazards amount to hundreds of millions each year, on the average. Much of the basic data utilized in efforts to reduce these losses come from geologic maps."

In addition to its programs to identify and map seismic hazards and mineral resources, the Department of Conservation manages California's earth resources through its programs that safeguard farmland and open space; oversee oil, gas and geothermal wells; ensure mined land reclamation; and promote beverage container recycling.