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News Releases in 2011

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11.01.2011

News Release: AZGS at American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, December 2011

AZGS staff will be involved in two talks and two poster presentations at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, CA, 5-9 December 2011. 

AZGS presentations range from development of the National Geothermal Data System (NGDS) to exploring interoperable solutions in Earth science data systems.  AZGS Director Lee Allison will deliver a talk on online interactive assessment of geothermal energy potential in the U.S.

With attendance approaching 20,000, the AGU Fall meeting is the largest worldwide conference in the geophysical sciences. 

Session, title, and author information:

Session IN31D. Geothermal Energy Research and Discovery I
Wed, Dec 7, 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM; Room 310
   
8:45 AM - 9:00 AM IN31D-03. National Geothermal Data System
Arlene F. Anderson; David Cuyler; Walter S. Snyder; M L. Allison; David D. Blackwell; Colin F. Williams

9:00 AM - 9:15 AM IN31D-04. Online, interactive assessment of geothermal energy potential in the U.S.
M L. Allison; Stephen M. Richard; Ryan Clark; Celia Coleman; Diane Love; Esty Pape; Leah Musil

Session IN51C. Interoperability Solutions in Earth Science Data Systems I Posters
Friday, Dec 9, 8:00 AM - 12:20 PM; Halls A-C

IN51C-1597. A Critical Path for Data Integration in the U.S. Earth Sciences
Kevin T. Gallagher; M L. Allison

IN51C-1599. Delivering Geoscience Knowledge in Federal Systems: What Can the Old and New Worlds Learn from Each Other?
Ian Jackson; Henry John Broome; M L. Allison

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Chief, Geologic Extension Service
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
Direct Line (520) 209-4146
Fax (520) 770-3505
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov  

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10.24.2011

News Release: Arizona Geology Magazine – E-magazine of the Arizona Geological Survey

Arizona Geology, the newsletter of the Arizona Geological Survey, continues to evolve. In 2008, rising print costs reduced the newsletter from four to three issues annually. By May 2009, the combination of budget cuts and rising costs caused us to discontinue the print product and focus wholly on a digital newsletter. On the positive side, the change in medium allowed us to greatly expand the number of articles per issue and to incorporate photo galleries and videos. 

Well, Arizona Geology is changing yet again. We are adopting an e-magazine approach that will allow greater flexibility in the timely release of articles. The printed newsletter approach limited release to three or four times a year, so topical articles, such as the Beeline Highway landslide of March 2008, might be released months after the event. This new e-magazine approach provides for rapid release of information; as soon as the article is ready to go, we’ll post it at the Arizona Geology Magazine. 

Archived articles will be organized chronologically and seasonally, and easily discovered using our portal page search engine.

You can subscribe to the Arizona Geology Magazine using our dedicated RSS feed – it is situated in the upper right at  http://azgeology.azgs.az.gov/.

Please let us know what you think of this e-magazine approach, and of the breadth and quality of the articles.

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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10.18.2011

News Release: Arizona House and Senate Committees vote unanimously to continue AZGS for 10 years

The Arizona Senate Natural Resources and Transportation Committee and the House of Representatives Energy and Natural Resources Committee both voted unanimously on 17 October 2011 to continue the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) for another ten years. The ten-year term is the maximum allowed by law.

In a 20 minute presentation to the House and Senate committees, AZGS Director Lee Allison outlined the Survey’s major accomplishments over the past ten years. Dr. Allison drew particular attention to the Survey’s work in identifying and broadcasting information about a major potash deposit in the Holbrook Basin of northern Arizona; information that is propelling a major exploration effort. In the area of geologic hazards, the Director pointed to: 1) AZGS efforts to identify, map and communicate information about earth fissures in Arizona; and 2) assisting Arizona Department of Transportation in evaluating landslide hazards along Highway 87 south of Payson, Arizona.   

Dr. Allison made note, too, that at a cost of 12 cents per Arizonan per year, the AZGS is among the most cost-effective state geologic surveys in the United States.

Following Dr. Allison’s presentation, the Committee opened the floor to individuals who wished to be heard on the merit of continuing AZGS. Five individual addressed the committee and offered their wholehearted support of the Survey: Mr. Ken Fergason (Registered Geologist), Mr. Steve Trussel (Executive Director, Arizona Rock Products Association), Mr. Robert Quick, Jr., (President, Arizona Mining Association), Eric Mears (Registered Geologist) and Dr. Steven Reynolds (Professor, Arizona State University). “The Arizona Geological Survey is the most efficient survey in the U.S.” said Dr. Reynolds. Mr. Trussel noted, “the Survey is of paramount importance” in identifying and protecting Arizona’s aggregate resources. 

In addition, the Committee received 12 letters supporting the Arizona Geological Survey. 

The recommendation of the Committee of Reference will be drafted into legislation to be voted on by the full Legislature in January 2012. At a time when state geologic surveys are under substantial pressure nationwide (surveys in Ohio, Louisiana, Colorado, and Nevada are threatened with substantial downsizing or outright closure), the Committee’s unanimous support shows the high regard that Arizonans have for the AZGS. 

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Chief, Geologic Extension Service
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
Direct Line (520) 209-4146
Fax (520) 770-3505
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov  

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09.30.2011

News Release: AZGS at the Geological Society of America's Annual Meeting

The Geological Society of America's Annual Meeting, "Archean to Anthropocene: The past is the key to the future," is being held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from October 9-12, 2011. Staff from the Arizona Geological Survey will be attending and presenting geoscience papers at the event.

In addition to the 5 papers being presented by AZGS authors, there will also be 6 AZGS poster sessions. A list of the abstracts can be found here, each including a link to more detailed information and the latest schedule information. AZGS staff who will be attending include: Director M. Lee Allison, Geoscientists Jon Spencer, Steve Richard, and Joe Cook, and Geothermal Project Manager, Kim Patten.

Also during the GSA Annual Meeting, on Tuesday, October 11, AZGS Geoscientist Joseph P. Cook will accept on behalf of his six co-authors (Youberg, A., Pearthree, P.A., Onken, J.A., MacFarlane, B.J., Bigio, E.R., and Kowler, A.L.) the John C. Frye Memorial Award for excellence in environmental geology writing. The Association of American State Geologists presents the award during the GSA Annual Meeting. The awarded paper is "Mapping of Holocene River Alluvium along the San Pedro River, Aravaipa Creek, and Babocomari River, Southeastern Arizona."

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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08.23.2011

News Release: Suggested Guidelines for Investigating Land Subsidence and Earth Fissure Hazards in Arizona

The Arizona Land Subsidence Interest Group (AzLSG), a cadre of Earth scientists, geotechnicians, and geological engineers, have formulated the first guidelines for the professional geotechnical community in their investigations of land subsidence and earth fissure hazards in south-central Arizona. 

Land subsidence and earth fissure formation result from voluminous groundwater harvesting and represent a hazard to people and property in Arizona, particularly where effected agricultural lands are transformed into urban or residential areas.  The AzLSG guidelines provide the geotechnical community with a template for investigating and communicating associated hazards to civil authorities and the public. 

In drafting these guidelines, the AzLSG drew heavily on previously published recommendations and guidelines prepared by professional societies or state geological surveys in Utah, Nevada, and California.

The AzLSG team identified seven guideline areas, which are summarized here.

  • Involve a qualified investigator with experience in geotechnical investigations – e.g., geologist, geological or civil engineer, hydrologist or an individual from a closely related field.
  • Conduct an exhaustive literature review for the site or area of interest, including examining maps, aerial photos, well water data, and other related data.
  • Examine aerial photographs and if available InSAR satellite imagery for time-series evidence of subsidence or earth fissures.
  • Conduct a surface investigation and include mapping of geologic and soil units, fissures, faults or other geologic structures, geomorphic features and surfaces, vegetative lineaments and animal burrowing patterns, and deformation of engineered structures due to land subsidence or earth fissures.
  • If appropriate, engage in trenching or boring to examine or explore for fissures in the subsurface.
  • Apply geophysical strategies if the situation warrants it.
  • Other methods as needed, e.g., aerial reconnaissance, installing piezometers and strain meters, among other things.

The AzLSG report recommends that each investigation culminate in a hazard investigation report that includes a body describing the nature and findings of the investigation, a conclusion section, and recommendations for mitigating subsidence or earth fissures, if warranted. 

The AzLSG guideline report is a Contributed Report (CR-11-D) of the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) and is available online at AZGS’s Document Repository.  

Full Citation:  Suggested Guidelines for Investigating Land Subsidence and Earth Fissure Hazards in Arizona, 2011, Arizona Land Subsidence Interest Group, CR-10-D, 10 p.

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Chief, Geologic Extension Service
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
Direct Line (520) 209-4146
Fax (520) 770-3505
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov  

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05.31.2011

News Release: AZGS awarded $189,853 from US Geological Survey StateMap Program

The US Geological Survey StateMap program just awarded the Arizona Geological Survey $189,853 to conduct new geologic mapping near Safford, Prescott, and the Artillery Mountains of Mohave County. 

“Geologic mapping is one of the primary functions of the AZGS. For the past 15 years, we have been aggressive participants in the USGS-run National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, especially in the Statemap component that matches state and federal funds,” said AZGS Director Lee Allison.

In selecting areas to map, the Geologic Mapping Advisory Committee (GMAC) provides the AZGS with strong input. This year they recommended the isolated Artillery Mountains, Mojave County, because of large, low-grade deposits of uranium and manganese found there; uranium is used in nuclear energy production, while manganese is an essential ingredient in manufacturing steel. 

Mapping in the Prescott area will focus on: 1) identifying fault zones and rock units that control or impact groundwater movement, which is essential to establishing a sustainable water use program in the rapidly urbanizing Chino Valley area of central Arizona; and 2) identifying flood-prone areas along local drainages to further inform geologic hazard mapping. 

Mapping around Safford is driven by environmental and water resource – quantity and quality – concerns and because of major, economic copper deposits demarcated in the area.   

Since 1993, the AZGS has been awarded $3,211,314 in StateMap funds (see map below); because StateMap funds are matched to the dollar by State funds, nearly $6,000,000 has been spend on geologic mapping in Arizona over the past two decades. More than 125, 7.5-minute topographic quadrangles – covering more than 8000 square miles -- have been mapped as part of the StateMap program (see attached PDF for footprints of StateMap products.)

For additional information regarding this year’s StateMap program award, see Lee Allison's "Why we map..."  series 1 , 2 (Prescott-Chino Valley), and 3 (Safford) at his Arizona Geology blog.

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov


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05.31.2011

News Release: Arizona Geological Survey Opens Storefront on Amazon.com

Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) now hosts a new storefront at Amazon.com. Over eighty titles are available, including the popular Down-to-Earth (DTE) geotourism series illustrating the geology of State and National Parks of Arizona using full color pictures, graphics, and easy-to-read text.

DTE favorites include: Geologic Guide to Sabino Canyon and the Catalina Highway, A Guide to the Geology of Saguaro National Park, Highlights of Northern Arizona Geology, and Guide to the Geologic Features of the Petrified Forest, among others. These books are tailor-made for the student, adult or tourist eager to learn more about the nature and origin of Arizona’s magnificent landscape.

In addition to the DTE Series, select mining and mineral resource bulletins, circulars, special papers, maps, and Arizona Geological Society Digests are also available through Amazon. Until now, distribution of our Earth science products was limited to State and National Park gift shops and independent bookstores. “Amazon offers the opportunity to reach a whole new clientele outside of Arizona,” said Randi Bellassai, AZGS's Sales and Marketing Manager.  

For the professional geotechnical and environmental communities, as well as local, state and federal agencies, the Arizona Geological Survey Document Repository has hundreds of geologic maps and reports freely available in PDF format (http://repository.azgs.az.gov)

View Arizona Geological Survey’s publications at the Amazon Storefront.

Arizona Geological Survey is Arizona’s Earth Science agency and serves as a primary source for informing, educating and assisting the public with geologic information for Arizona. In addition to technical advice and assistance, AZGS is charged, too, with encouraging the wise use of Arizona’s mineral and land resources.

For more information please contact:
Michael Conway
Chief, Geologic Extension Service
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
Direct Line (520) 209-4146
Fax (520) 770-3505
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov  

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05.13.2011

News Release: AASG-USGS Geoscience Information Network and Western Regional Partnership Sign Working Agreement

We are delighted to report that we concluded the signing today of a Working Agreement between the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) –US Geological Survey Geoscience Information Network and the Western Regional Partnership (WRP).

Under the agreement, the two groups  will  work together to build a distributive online open source data network, associated web mapping service catalogs, and increase use of the data portfolio with reputable and authoritative web mapping services, coordinate to ensure performance standards between GIN and the WRP mapping application and collaborate on system design, web applications, data models, and content, and work together to avoid duplication of data by establishing or adopting methodologies for assigning uniform unique identifiers to data items and datasets, and ensure that uniform metadata are associated with these resources.

The Western Regional Partnership (www.wrpinfo.org) was established to create a regional senior policy level partnership among the Department of Defense (DoD), other Federal agencies, and State and Tribal executive leadership in the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah to identify common goals and emerging issues, and to develop solutions that support WRP Partners and protect natural resources, while promoting sustainability, homeland security and military readiness.

The WRP online Mapping Application is building a central GIS repository of an expected 10,000 land use and land management data layers for the region, with 3,500 already submitted to the WRP catalog. AZGS will work with WRP staff to link the repository and GIN together and develop shared services and applications. These data sets will also feed into the National Geothermal Data System to support geothermal exploration, development, and planning activities by industry and government.

Based on the early success of WRP, DoD appears ready to develop similar partnerships in other areas of the country.

Lee Allison
Arizona Geological Survey Director and State Geologist
Tucson, Arizona
13 May 2011

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov


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04.29.2011

News Release: Breccia-pipe uranium mining in northern Arizona and potential impact on uranium concentrations of Colorado River water

A new study by the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) shows that potential accidental release of uranium to the Colorado River due to a mining-related accident in the Grand Canyon region would cause little change to the large annual flux of dissolved uranium that is carried naturally by the river.

In July 2009, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar called for a two-year withdrawal of nearly one-million Federal acres from exploration and new mining claims in the Grand Canyon region in response to concerns about the potential environmental impact of uranium mining. As part of the withdrawal process, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, working in cooperation with federal, state, county and tribal agencies, including the AZGS, released on 17 February 2011, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS identified increases in uranium concentration in water due to mining-related activity and subsequent impact on downstream water quality as a "relevant issue for detailed analysis".

To examine one potential impact of uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region on uranium levels in Colorado River water, Dr. Jon Spencer (AZGS Senior Geologist) and Dr. Karen Wenrich (Consulting Geologist) posed a hypothetical , worst-case, scenario involving an accidental spill of the entire contents of an ore truck hauling 30 metric tons (66,000 pounds) of uranium ore containing one percent uranium (ore grades in northern Arizona are typically somewhat lower), followed by flash-flood transport and dissolution of all spilled uranium into the Colorado River. In this scenario, the ore is pulverized and dissolved within a single year, releasing 300 kg of uranium directly into river waters.
The result: uranium concentration of Colorado River waters would increase from 4.00 to 4.02 ppb (parts per billion by mass); an increase of just one half of one percent that would be masked by natural uranium-concentration variations as determined by measurements reported in a recent U.S. Geological Survey study. Furthermore, the uranium content of Colorado River waters would remain well below the 30 ppb Maximum Contaminant Level set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for safe drinking water.

The small change in dissolved uranium content of Colorado River waters as a result of this hypothetical accident is due to the very large annual volume of river water that passes through the Grand Canyon and the approximately 60 metric tons of dissolved uranium that is naturally carried by the river each year.

Citation:
Spencer, J.E. and Wenrich, K, 2011, Breccia-pipe uranium mining in the Grand Canyon region and implications for uranium levels in Colorado River water. Arizona Geological Survey OFR-11-04, 13 p.

BLM's Proposed Mineral Withdrawal Near Grand Canyon Draft Environmental Impact Statement http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/timeout/deis.html

 

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

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03.15.2011

News Release: New Earth Fissure Map Available for Three Sisters Buttes Area, Cochise County

Earth fissure mapping of the Three Sisters Butte study area south of Kansas Settlement in Cochise County is now complete and the map is available at the AZGS Earth Fissure Viewer.  

Arizona Geological Survey geologists mapped nearly 19 miles of continuous and discontinuous earth fissures near Three Sisters Buttes. The fissures are largely bunched in two locales: one group circumnavigating the Three Sisters Buttes, and the second north of Sulphur Hills. In summer 2010, three new earth fissures formed north of Sulphur Hills intersecting and temporarily closing E. Parker Ranch Road.

In Cochise County, the Sulphur Springs North and Bowie-San Simon earth fissure study areas will be the next ones to be mapped; the Dragoon Road area earth fissure map was published in November 2009.

Besides posing a threat to infrastructure and livestock, fissures are an illegal dumping ground for tires, appliances, construction debris, manure and other sundry items. Because the fissures are believed to extend down to the water table, earth fissures represent a potential threat from surface runoff contaminating groundwater resources.

The AZGS Earth Fissure Mapping Program will continue to update maps as the earth fissures grow and new ones form. AZGS geologists will begin focusing on ways to predict where and when the fissures will appear and work with local building officials and engineers on way to mitigate existing earth fissures to minimize their impacts.

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Earth fissures are cracks, seams, or separations in the ground c differential land subsidence that accompanies extensive groundwater harvesting. The earliest appearance of fissures in Arizona was near Eloy in 1927. Individual fissures range in length from hundreds of feet to miles, and in width from inches to tens of feet. Currently, geoscientists believe that fissures initially form at the groundwater table and then propagate upwards hundreds of feet to the surface. Because fissures are commonly oriented perpendicular to local drainages, they are capable of capturing surface runoff. In-rushing waters may result in rapid erosion of sidewalls and gully development causing dramatic and sudden changes in fissure geometry -- length, depth, and width.

Earth fissures are a geologic hazard in the arid valleys of central and south-central Arizona. As population centers expand into subsiding areas of basins/valleys, residents and structures are placed in closer proximity to fissures. Property owners are encouraged to 1) set structures as far away from fissures as possible, and 2) prevent water from entering fissures.

Reports of earth fissures are confined to Cochise, Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties in central and south-central Arizona. In 2007, AZGS released 1:250,000-scale planning maps of the four counties showing the approximate locations of earlier reported earth fissures. These earth fissure planning maps are available free, online at the Earth Fissure Center at www.azgs.az.gov/efc.

AZGS is charged by state statute with mapping earth fissures in Arizona.

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03.15.2011

News Release: Release of New Pinal County Earth Fissure Maps

The first county wide compilation of earth fissures in Pinal County is now complete. Maps of the final three earth fissure study areas -- Sacaton Butte, Santa Rosa Wash, and White Horse Pass -- are available online at the Earth Fissure Viewer. The comprehensive Pinal County Earth Fissure Map (1:250,000 map scale) showing all mapped and reported earth fissures in the county is available in PDF format.

Over the past three years, Arizona Geological Survey geologists mapped 86 miles of continuous and discontinuous earth fissures in Pinal County. An additional 167 miles of reported fissures were visited and examined but remain unconfirmed either because recent agricultural or construction activities masked their appearance or because they lack some of the physical attributes used to identify earth fissures.

Nearly 43 miles (50%) of all mapped fissures are exposed on the east side of the Picacho Basin, adjacent to the Picacho Mountains and Picacho Peak. The three newly mapped study areas yielded 5.62 miles of earth fissures, with Santa Rosa Wash accounting for nearly three miles of that. An additional 7.7 miles of previously reported fissures remain unconfirmed.

Because of rapid urbanization in north-central Pinal County, earth fissures in the Chandler Heights and Apache Junction study areas along the Maricopa-Pinal County line offer the most immediate problems for county and municipal authorities.

Besides posing a threat to infrastructure and livestock, fissures are an illegal dumping ground for tires, appliances, construction debris, manure and other sundry items. Because the fissures are believed to extend down to the water table, earth fissures represent a potential threat from surface runoff contaminating groundwater resources.

The AZGS Earth Fissure Mapping Program will continue to update maps as the earth fissures grow and new ones form. AZGS geologists will begin focusing on ways to predict where and when the fissures will appear and work with local building officials and engineers on way to mitigate existing earth fissures to minimize their impacts.

Contact:
Michael Conway
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.209.4146
Michael.Conway@azgs.az.gov

Joe Cook
Arizona Geological Survey
416 W. Congress, Ste 100
Tucson, AZ 85701
520.770.3500
Joe.Cook@azgs.az.gov

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Earth fissures are cracks, seams, or separations in the ground c differential land subsidence that accompanies extensive groundwater harvesting. The earliest appearance of fissures in Arizona was near Eloy in 1927. Individual fissures range in length from hundreds of feet to miles, and in width from inches to tens of feet. Currently, geoscientists believe that fissures initially form at the groundwater table and then propagate upwards hundreds of feet to the surface. Because fissures are commonly oriented perpendicular to local drainages, they are capable of capturing surface runoff. In-rushing waters may result in rapid erosion of sidewalls and gully development causing dramatic and sudden changes in fissure geometry -- length, depth, and width.

Earth fissures are a geologic hazard in the arid valleys of central and south-central Arizona. As population centers expand into subsiding areas of basins/valleys, residents and structures are placed in closer proximity to fissures. Property owners are encouraged to 1) set structures as far away from fissures as possible, and 2) prevent water from entering fissures.

Reports of earth fissures are confined to Cochise, Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal counties in central and south-central Arizona. In 2007, AZGS released 1:250,000-scale planning maps of the four counties showing the approximate locations of earlier reported earth fissures. These earth fissure planning maps are available free, online at the Earth Fissure Center at www.azgs.az.gov/efc.

AZGS is charged by state statute with mapping earth fissures in Arizona.

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