Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Support Dam Rehabilitation Bill in the Senate

I got my newsletter from the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) in the inbox today. This announcement was included:

KEY ALERT: Support Dam Rehabilitation Bill in the Senate

Please contact your Senator in support of the ASCE-supported Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act (H.R. 3224).

This legislation would provide up to $200 million over five years to address deficiencies in the nation's publicly owned non-federal dams. Major features of the bill include:

• Establishment of a program within the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund dam rehabilitation and repairs.

• Enactment of a public fund to award grants for assistance to repair unsafe dams that are publicly-owned (state and local dams).

• Authorization of appropriation levels that will help rehabilitate publicly owned non-federal deficient dams.

The Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act was passed by the House of Representatives in October 2007 and needs only Senate approval to be sent to the President and signed into law.

Please call or email your Senators. Senate rules allow for quick consideration and passage of non-controversial bills under unanimous consent. It is our hope that H.R. 3224 will be brought up today or tomorrow under this arrangement. If it is not, the bill will likely die when Congress adjourns and will need to be reintroduced at the beginning of the 111th Congress in January 2009.

Sample message:

Please support prompt passage of the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act (H.R. 3224). This legislation would provide $200 million over five years to make repairs to the nation's ailing publicly owned dams.

Aging dams often represent hidden hazards to communities that have grown up around them, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that $10 billion is needed over the next 12 years to address our most critical dams, both public and private.

With a shaky economy, we cannot afford to neglect our infrastructure any longer. Please support H.R. 3224 that will protect homes and livelihoods by making vital improvements to essential infrastructure.

Additional Background - Dams in Need of RepairThe Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act was originally introduced in the 110th Congress as H.R. 1098. The bill was reintroduced with minor changes as H.R. 3224 and passed by the full House in October 2007. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the bill on September 17, 2008.

Recent failures and extreme rainfalls have called attention to the vulnerability of dams and brought into tragic focus the potential consequences of aging and unsafe dams. Just this summer, the Redlands Dam in Arizona failed as a result of heavy rains, displacing the 400-member Havasupai Tribe and causing the evacuation of hundreds of campers and hikers in the Grand Canyon. The March 2006 failure of the Ka Loko Dam in Hawaii killed seven people and caused over $50 million in damage. The April 2007 failure of Rainbow Lake Dam in New Jersey resulted in the further failure of two smaller dams nearby. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that $36.2 billion is needed to rehabilitate all dams across the nation, and $10.1 billion is needed over the next 12 years to address the most critical dams, both public and private, that pose a direct risk to human life should they fail. Needed repairs to publicly owned dams are estimated at $5.9 billion.

ASCE's 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure gives the condition of our nation's dams a grade of D, equal to the overall infrastructure grade. State dam safety programs have identified more than 3,300 "unsafe" dams, which have deficiencies that leave them more susceptible to failure, especially during large flood events or earthquakes. The number of unsafe dams will continue to increase until a funding source is created to repair them.

The federal government should bear some responsibility in repairing ailing dams as failures do not necessarily respect state and local boundaries. The proposed legislation would distribute funds to state dam safety agencies based on the number of high-hazard publicly owned non-federal dams in the state. A high-hazard dam is one whose failure would likely cause loss of life or severe property damage. The Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act would help fulfill this responsibility.

For Arizona residents, you can easily contact your Senator at this web address - http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=AZ. Of course one of them isn't very likely to show up for a vote.

101 GeoBlogs

I saw this on Arizona Geology (big surprise). German blogger geoberg.de has compiled a list of 101 geoblogs - I'll have to check a few of these out. They missed this blog, but we're relatively new and not the most prolific site, though it still stings a bit.


(Palaeo-) Climatology

Geo-Information (GIS etc.)

  • The Geo Factor by Ron Exler - Blog about GIS, GPS etc.
  • Geologic Froth - blog about geoscientific data-processing with focus on GPS and GIS
  • MiGeo - Blog from Peru about web-based geoscientific applications (in Spanish)
  • Arctic and Alpine by Dawn and Dave Nicholson - news, discussions and links about geomorphology in cold climates


Hydrogeology / Hydrology


Quarternary Geology

Regional and Local Geology

  • Arizona Geology by Allison - diverse geo-topics about Arizona and neighbouring states
  • Oakland Geology by Andrew Alden - geological outcrops in Oakland
  • proreg news by Michael Hahl - articles about the geology of the German Odenwald (in German)


Structural Geology/Tectonics


  • ECRIS & CEVP - comprehensive articles about the European Cenozoic Rift System (ECRIS) and the Central European Volcanic Provence (CEVP) (in German)
  • Eruptions by Dr. Erik W. Klemetti - Blog about active volcanos worldwide
  • Magma Cum Laude - blog about volcanos and their molten and solidified products
  • Volcano Summer - Blog about a research stay of a geology student at Mauna Loa (Hawaii)
  • The Volcanism Blog by Dr. Ralph Harrington - Blog about worldwide volcanos, especially Chaitén, Llaima, Kilauea and Tungurahua


Friday, September 26, 2008

Random Geo-Amusement

I can't be all serious all the time, so here are a few pictures and one video that I've found amusing as a geologist. Enjoy!

Wasatch Fault Video

From the Arizona Geology Blog:

The Utah Geological Survey has produced a Google Earth fly-by
video tour of the Wasatch fault and posted it on YouTube. It briefly shows the fault within the Intermountain Seismic Belt that extends into northern Arizona.

The 10-minute video is not only engaging, the narrative is fully understandable by non-geologists without dumbing down the information.This is circulating among state geologists across the country as a great example of how we can better communicate with our constituents.

The State of Utah is showcasing it. But unfortunately, we are hearing from a number of other states that not only are their computers blocked from viewing or uploading materials to YouTube, a number of them are even prohibited from viewing Google Earth. (I find this unsurprising since many institutions block YouTube and that Goolge Earth requires a coorporate liscence for commercial purposes - something that many people seem unaware of).

Earth Science Week Update

The latest Earth Science Week Newsletter is available. There is lots of interesting and helpful things included in it.


From an email:


This Graduate Fellowship Program of the National Academies—consisting of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council—is designed to engage graduate science, engineering, medical, veterinary, business, public policy, and law students in the analytical process that informs the creation of national policy-making with a science/technology element. As a result, students develop basic skills essential to working in the world of science policy.

We are pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the 2009 sessions. The program will comprise two 12-week sessions:
  • Winter: January 12- April 3
  • Fall: September 9 through November 25
Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars and those who have completed graduate studies or postdoctoral research within the last 5 years are eligible to apply. Candidates should submit an application and request that a mentor/adviser fill out a reference form. Both forms are available on the Web at http://nationalacademies.org/policyfellows.

The deadline for receipt of application material is November 1 for the winter program and June 1 for the fall program. Candidates may apply to both sessions concurrently.

Additional details about the program and a link to join the mailing list are available on the Web site. Questions should be directed to: policyfellows@nas.edu.

Below is a sampling of comments from alumni about the program's impact:

"This is an important career building opportunity for people interested in the scientific community outside academia. Even if you plan to pursue a traditional academic track, seeing science from a policy perspective is very enlightening. There is something valuable in this experience for first year grad students to recent PhD’s. Come with an open mind
and expect to learn more than you bargained for."

"This program will open your mind to a world rarely envisioned from the confines of laboratory bench work. I learned an immeasurable amount about the policy and politics behind science and after the fellowship opens your mind, it opens career doors."

“Just ten weeks in the S&T policy world in DC substantially broadened my perspective on how I can use my engineering background to positively impact our society. I return to graduate school recharged about the value of advanced education, and more confident about my decisions to pursue studies that blend the boundaries of engineering and the humanities. I feel like I have much new knowledge and understanding to share with my fellow graduate students as well
as my professors. No matter what field of study you are pursuing, there is no reason not to apply for a policy fellowship. By seeing the connections between your academic field and the public policy arena, you will find many new opportunities for future studies or careers. You will be enriched as a person, as a public citizen, and as a member of an academic community.”

“A really great experience for those from the “soft sciences” who have an interest in S&T policy or if you’re trying to figure out what else you might want to do outside of academia. This was a great opportunity to bridge the gap and gain a new understanding and appreciation for how it all works, the people involved, and the profound difference it can make in the end (and all long the way).”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

September AEG News Available

The September 2008 AEG News is now available online - those of us who receive it in the mail should be getting it soon. It's a great publication that has recently been improved with better paper stock and color. It has articles by AEG national officers and committee chairs, technical ariticles, section updates, etc. Included is an update of the Arizona Section with a photo from our Student Night back in April.

AEG is Offering Liability Insurance

From AEG:

Many of you have asked if AEG has information on affordable liability insurance. Up until now, we have provided contacts, but there has been no program specifically designed for our members, until now. AEG is pleased to announce GeoPro, an exclusive liability insurance program for our members. We have partnered with Trustco Inc., an insurance broker out of SLC, UT, in an effort to build an insurance program designed specifically for Environmental and Engineering Geologists. Trustco Inc. has been AEG’s insurance broker for Directors & Officers Liability and General Liability for over five years.

Members will benefit from discounted pricing, streamlined underwriting and an insurance broker with valuable experience in providing insurance to the environmental and engineering geology profession. One of the greatest parts to this program is that AEG members will be able to provide critical feedback to Trustco in an effort to continually improve the coverage and cost of liability insurance.

You can get more information or a liability insurance quote by contacting:
Joshua Wittwer, CIC
Trustco, Inc
801-278-5341 x332
800-644-4334 x332
801-278-9051 (fax)

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Superfund Site in Arizona

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the Iron King Mine - Humboldt Smelter site in Dewey-Humboldt, Ariz., to the federal Superfund list today, after its initial proposal in March. [right, Iron King mine tailings, Humboldt, AZ. Credit, wikipedia]

This brings the number of Superfund sites in Arizona to 9.

According to EPA, "the site encompasses areas of contamination from two facilities: the Iron King Mine property and the Humboldt Smelter property. The Iron King Mine was an active mine from 1904 until 1969. The majority of this area is covered by tailings and waste rock piles.

The Humboldt Smelter is situated less than one mile east of the Iron King Mine property. The smelter operated from the late 1800s until the early 1960s. This area is covered in yellow-orange tailings, grey smelter ash, and slag. Mining and processing have contaminated soil, sediments, surface water and groundwater with arsenic, lead, and other metals."

The listing had the endorsement of the AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

AEG National Meeting - No Worries

With the upcoming AEG National Meeting in New Orleans in two weeks (Sept. 15 - 19), some people may be concerned about any effect from Hurricane Gustav. No worries - the hotel suffered no ill affects and the conference is happening as planned. I hope that Arizona has a decent turn-out for the national meeting - I'll be there on Friday and for the Board Meeting over the weekend.

Next Meeting - Thursday, September 11th

Our next meeting is on Thursday, September 11th at Pizzeria Uno in downtown Tempe. Things get started at the usual time (6pm) with drinks and networking and move forward from there. The presentation is titled “State-of-the-Art Seismic Hazard Analysis for the Greater Phoenix Area” by Simon Ghanat, Graduate Student at ASU. Simon is Dr. Edward Kavazanjian’s student and Dr. Kavazanjian will be co-presenting. The talk’s abstract is below.

I hope to see you all at the meeting!

State-of-the-Art Seismic Hazard Analysis for the Greater Phoenix Area


Simon Ghanat, Graduate Student


Edward Kavazanjian, Jr., Associate Professor

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Arizona State University

Recent (2003, 2006) increases in the return period for earthquake design ground motions in the International Building Code have significantly increased seismic design requirements for many structures in the greater Phoenix area. However, provisions in the code for site-specific analyses allow for a reduction of up to 20% in design ground motions evaluated on the basis of the USGS national seismic hazard maps, thereby reducing seismic design requirements to earlier levels. Potential sources of a reduction in the design ground motions include changes in the seismic source parameters used in the probabilistic seismic hazard analysis and the influence of local soil conditions on site response. Site-specific probabilistic seismic hazard analyses conducted using the best available information on local seismic sources and next generation strong ground motion attenuation relationships that include the influence of local site conditions show that in some parts of the greater Phoenix area a reduction in design ground motions and a return to the pre-2006 seismic design requirements may be justified. However, in other parts of the greater Phoenix area, seismic design ground motions greater than the values from the national seismic hazard maps may be appropriate.