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2021 Mapping to Focus on Rio Grande and Pecos Watersheds, Interstate-40 Corridor

Field Geologist Dr. Kevin Hobbs and Research Scientist Kristin Pearthree examine a fault while mapping at Mesa Chijuilla in Sandoval County, NM.
(click for a larger version)
Courtesy of Michael Timmons

Socorro, NM
— April 30, 2021

The New Mexico Bureau of Geology’s Geologic Mapping Program was awarded $583,603 through the federal STATEMAP program to continue detailed mapping. This year’s projects will focus on three key regions: the Rio Grande watershed, the lower Pecos River watershed, and along the Interstate-40 corridor near Gallup, New Mexico.

A committee comprised of representatives from federal, state, and private agencies met in 2020 to determine the areas of focus for mapping during the next year. All targeted regions are experiencing pressing natural resource and geologic hazard management challenges. Geologic mapping generates the data necessary to support policy decisions and targeted research projects, often conducted by the advising agencies.

New this year, the focus of the Geologic Mapping Program is shifting in response to changes in the funding structure of the STATEMAP program under the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) GeoFramework Initiative, a long term project to create a geologic map database of the United States. This new distribution of funding supports the development of regional compilation maps at the 1:100,000-scale, covering larger areas than the 1:24,000-scale maps produced in previous years.

“The New Mexico Geologic Mapping Program has long emphasized the importance of generating new geologic map data for our stakeholders and will continue to do so with the available funding we get from the USGS,” said Bureau Deputy Director and Associate Director for Mapping Programs Dr. J. Michael Timmons. “The new funding line for compilation work represents an opportunity to take our nearly 30 year history of geologic mapping in the STATEMAP Program and generate new regional syntheses that will offer seamless coverage of critical areas of the state.”

Compilation projects slated for this next year include a 1:100,000-scale map of the Los Alamos area, a 1:100,000-scale map of the Socorro area, and a number of geodatabase-focused projects to bring existing older maps into a modern data format.

“For the Los Alamos map project, numerous geologists over many years contributed to our geologic understanding of the Jemez Mountains volcanic field [included in the map area],” said Timmons. “I’m looking forward to seeing the decades of geologic research captured in this new geologic synthesis.”

In addition to the compilation maps, detailed mapping at the 1:24,000-scale will also continue in the identified project areas and address a number of pressing environmental concerns.

For example, mapping located in the Rio Grande watershed near Las Cruces, New Mexico, will examine hydrologic landscape changes resulting from housing development during the mid-2000s. Mapping near Gallup, New Mexico will help develop an understanding of the geologic framework of the local aquifer, where estimates indicate that pumping has lowered the water table in some areas by as much as 60 meters since 2008. And in the lower Pecos River watershed, mapping will identify areas prone to sinkholes, which form in the underlying limestone bedrock and jeopardize transportation and energy infrastructure.

This detailed mapping will, in time, feed into the larger regional syntheses. “Our hope is that our stakeholders will continue to receive the full benefit of detailed data within our geologic map compilations,” said Timmons.

The STATEMAP program is funded by the United State Geological Survey’s National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program with matching funds from the State of New Mexico.