Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gallinas River at the USGS gage

I got to visit the USGS gage on the Gallinas River recently. This is near Las Vegas, NM, on the east side of the Sangre de Cristos Mountains. Luckily, I recently purchased and have been perusing the NMGS "Tectonic Development of the Southern Sangre de Cristos Mountains, New Mexico", so I actually know a little bit about what I got to see.

West of Las Vegas, the Gallinas River has cut through the Crestone Anticline to expose some of the Precambrian metamorphic and igneous intrusive rocks in an area between the Crestone upstream and west to around Trout Springs. This exposure, and the bedrock-controlled river substrate (an F in Rosgen parlance), make this a great place for a stream gage.

The Precambrian rx have been well-sheared and folded as observed in their exposures along the faulted frontal zone of the Sangres uplift. In the first photo, you can see the gage equipment box, and the folded Precambrian adjacent to it. The picture barely does it justice.

A shot upriver from the gage station. The canyon is steep, with poorly- to-undeveloped riparian areas, clearly due to the lack of flood terraces. This changes immediately downstream of the gage station. Between the road grade and areas of less-cohesive, more mafic, weathered zones (fault splay, maybe? - I don't do structure for a living), the river has a greater ability to form riparian habitat/flood terraces.

Here's a shot of the near-vertical Precambrian with a boudin of felsic material. This is just downstream of the gage, in the canyon wall/roadcut.

A little further down-canyon (east), a well-weathered zone of mafic material interspersed between the more competent rock. The mafic was easily crushed by hand. It's very similar to the exposure of the Romero fault zone near Mora (post to come), so I wondered if there might be fault splays along this stretch. There aren't any noted in the references I have, but this stretch also has restricted access.

I should note that this location is also occupied by northern leopard frogs, petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The person accompanying me had surveyed for them in the past, and had, with others, determined that the frog occupied adjacent rock pools and wetter zones; habitat much more favorable during lower water years. During freshet or high water years, this habitat would be inundated, lowering the species' ability to reproduce. When the habitat is well-exposed and well-wetted, the species would thrive.

We had a fine time exploring the canyon and discussing the habitat and hydrology drivers. I was heartily reminded of a friend's comment (Josh Collins, who works for the San Francisco Estuary Institute and whose wife was a grad student of Luna Leopold) that habitat occurs at the intersection of hydrology and geology. The Gallinas at the USGS gage is a fine example.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It should be perfectly fine to prove your restoration works...

I recently was made party to complaints regarding regulating agencies, well, regulating.

In this particular instance, the colleague (doesn't work with me, but is in my industry) was complaining about post-construction monitoring requirements being imposed on in-stream restoration projects. They weren't particularly onerous, just some longitudinal- and cross-sections as well as photo-monitoring, with an annual report for three to five years.

I fail to understand why my colleague was upset that he might have to assure the regulators that his project would do what he said it would do. First, any impact, whether beneficial or adverse, is still an impact, and you need to prove to the agencies that what you're doing is appropriate and feasible and won't cause lasting harm. Second, they quite have the authority to place conditions on permits that they issue in order to assure that the impacts are what they call "minimal." Third, restoration projects fail. Sometimes they fail big, sometimes they fail small. Finally, although I've come across some pencil-pushing dorkbutts, most of the regulators I've worked with are fair, consistent, and very concerned about the overall health of resource that I'm proposing to impact.

My recipe for a succesful application and project:

1. Give your local regulators a well-described and depicted project. What's obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to the harried regulator who has 30+ people clamoring for their permits, so you need to make it obvious in your submittal. Quantify the impacts, the need for the project. What's the land use history of the watershed? Why is the stream impaired? Do you have a reference reach that you're trying to emulate? Give them clear, measurable performance standards for your project and tell them when and for how long you will monitor, and tell them when it will be successful. Most agencies have brochures or checklists for complete applications; use them.

2. Be ready and humble enough for all sorts of questions regarding your design and the need for the project. Prepare for potential changes/post-project fixes in your budget and design.

3. Watch your contractors during construction, and put clear damage/non-performance clauses in your contracts. I've heard of contractors driving up and down a narrow stream looking to see how high the splash would go, for a non-profit's fish habitat restoration. I've also seen j-hooks and vanes installed so high that they impeded boats during lower flows. It's not good when your fish habitat project's poor construction really pisses off the fishermen and the regulators.

4. If you have to change design or structure location during construction, tell the regulators. Call them up or email them, tell them what you need to do, and ask if it's okay to keep the contractor mobilized and supply as-builts after construction. If they say no, give them change drawings and ask for a permit modification, ASAP.

5. Do your post-construction monitoring on time. Don't blow it off. If big things happen in the watershed that affect your project, tell them soon afterwards, and include it in your report.

6. If you see that your structure(s) isn't/aren't working, tell them and propose a fix. Make sure your client is aware that sometimes, structures need tweaking and build that into your budget.

Restoration is not an exact science. There's lots of schools of thought (and lots of arguments, too), and no single prescribed method of conducting restoration. If you're prepared to have an honest, humble dialogue with your regulators and give them the information they need to evaluate your project up-front and after construction, you'll likely have a very successful restoration business.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall's first snow...

Snow at the Coconino household early this morning.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back again

I've taken about a month and a half off of posting and reading blogs, Twitter, etc. It actually took much longer to recover from the surgery than I had anticipated, but it was well worth it. I went back to work earlier than I should have, and thus ended up with a minor infection and more cramping/pain than was originally indicated. I spent many days on the couch with a book and pain killers. But I'm better now, and doggone it, the surgery worked. I still have a period, but happily pranced through field work on the worst day this last week. Astonishing. Still might need hrt, though, but I'm a little more disposed to it now.

From what little I've read of other folks' blogs today, I can see I have some catching up to do. After reading Anne Jefferson's post on Highly Allocthonous , I see a post on stream classification might be needed. It would also be a good refresher for me - I have some stream stuff to wrap my head around in the near future, anyway. Also need to post something on the Quivira Coalition's annual conference and water symposium. Bill Zeedyk will have his new book on Induced Meandering available at the conference. I also need to see what my daughter's k-garten class is doing for Earth Sciences week, if anything, and maybe (cough) volunteer if I can break away from the work thing. I'm also peripherally participating in a "used tire bale as bank stabilization research project" and may have some thoughts about that in the next month or so. I also have a picture of a road cut near Mora, NM that needs posting. I have no geology references for that area, and so know little about it other that it looked like a fault through meta-seds with granitic intrusions. I don't work much in rx anymore, so I'll welcome any info to clue me in. Say tuned.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Red dirt girl

With appropriate homage to Emmy Lou Harris and east Texas, I live in red dirt country. Specifically, dirt derived from the Permian Yeso and Sangre de Cristo formations (yes, it's a hint to where I live). It is pretty dark red, as seen in the photo below, and stains everything (if anyone has a suggestion to how to get it out of my five-year-old's clothes, I'm all ears). When dry, its clay content makes for great adobe trails and the dirt roads in the 'hood get well compacted and easy to drive. It would make a nice house from adobe bricks, but that's a large project for another lifetime.

The reason I bring this up is that geology is often the root of many incidents in my house, including this morning's. Because of the red dirt, and the current monsoon storms, I have a policy of no shoes in the house, in an exercise in futility to keep the red dirt off my new fake-wood flooring. [The kitchen floor tile and grout is actually the same color as the dirt, as I presciently knew the result of putting my mud puppy-child and significant other together in this environment, so close to the back door.]

The occasional result of this policy is shown below. The outside shoes end up in the once black and white dog's mouth (now black and white with reddish-brown legs), with the following results.
As I was reading other blogs this morning, I looked out the dining room window, to note the black, white and red dog wandering by with a distinctly hot pink small Timberland sandal in her mouth. She got yelled at. The shoe was saved. I got a blog post.

The offending dog, happily posing for a picture.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Franciscan Melange, Oak Woodland Savannah and MJ videos

The five-year-old was curious about MJ and all the media fuss over him and his demise. Having reached my majority around the time when he was releasing his first solo albums and becoming "king of pop", I set about to educate my little one on the finer points of moonwalking while simultaneously reliving a wee bit of my late teens and early twenties through watching a series of his videos this last week.

What struck me the most, at least in the outdoor videos, was the fact that most the scenery seemed to have been shot at his Santa Ynez valley ranch, Neverland. I know because one of my favorite hiking trails for about 9 years, in the 90s, was right next door, while I lived in Santa Barbara.

I pretty vividly remember the last time I hiked that trail. It was spring, and a very good flower season. One of the peaks above, a triangular-shaped one whose name I forget (Zaca Peak?), was bright orange with eschscholzia california, California poppy. I came across one of the more beautiful groups of sisrynchium bellum (blue-eyed grass), I'd ever seen. It was a different blue, lighter than what I was used to seeing. The lupinus longifolius, bush lupine, was in full flower giving off that wonderful grape-juice scent. Down on the valley floor, the quercus lobata, or valley oaks were dripping with the green of their fresh spring leaves.

Out of all the landscapes I've been, that driven by the Franciscan melange is my favorite, and the drive from Los Olivos up to Figueroa Mountain across the main ridgeline and over to the saddle between Figueroa Mountain and the San Rafael peaks best exemplifies that landscape to me. [Figueroa Mtn Road to Happy Cyn Road back to San Marcos Pass Road] From the serpentine Franciscan knockers, to the grassed shaley slopes, to the tall foothill pine forests at the top of the range, this landscape speaks to me like no other.

The Franciscan melange in the San Rafaels along Figueroa Mtn Road is composed primarily of marine sediments, with serpentine Franciscan knockers showing up occasionally at the top of the mountain and along Happy Cyn Rd. The mix of differing sediments, each of which supports its own mini-ecosystem of flora, gives rise to a ruffled, patchwork landscape which is like no other I've seen, and is definitely one of my favorite.

Though I don't have any photos (didn't have a digital camera back then), this one shows the triangular peak and really exemplifies the beauty of the area: Figueroa Mtn, Flickr image courtesy of Kimberly Perkin.

Though any fascination I might have once had with the "king of pop" is long gone, whenever I see one of his videos, I'll fondly look for images of the Santa Ynez Valley.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blogger comment window

Does anyone have a problem with Blogger only opening a dinky comment window with no means of expanding it, so that you can't post comments because you can't see all the word verification or most of your comment? Scrolling doesn't work. I seem to have that problem with my home mac and haven't been able to find a work around. Have any of you? Thanks, in advance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bad Geology Movie

I ended up wasting my evening alone (both the 5-yr old and the SO are away for the week, on different sides of the continent) watching the continent get ripped in half during the ludicrously bad "Apocalypse 10.5" or whatever in the heck it was called.

I really had a hard time willingly suspending my disbelief for this one. From Sun Valley erupting to Las Vegas sinking at least 200 feet into the vegas (did they really try to say it was sulphuric acid-eroded limestone in the alluvial valley?), it was a really horrid portrayal of natural events gone badder in much less than geologic time. If I had Emeril's smell-o-vision, rotten eggs would have been wafting from the set.

I really loved (not) the rift fault propagating through the midsection of Canada and the U.S. in less than two days without any failed rift arms (would they have propagated and died in less than a day?).

When my ex worked as a prof at an unnamed SoCal bastion of higher learning, he regularly got calls from "the industry" looking for quick answers to geologic questions (it helped that his last name is closer to the beginning in the alphabet - the industry geeks tend to go down the list). Some were interesting, but some were rather infantile. I remember him talking about some whining sod trying to find a good movie location and practically begging for a warm, but Iceland-like locale to shoot in a few weeks (it was the middle of winter-southern Idaho was right out). It has occurred to me, more than once, that I could probably have found some work as a geology "consultant" to the industry. I couldn't bring myself to even check into it, though, as I presume the writers and directors for movies like the one I saw tonight repeatedly shine on their consultants' pleadings for a dramatic geological activity that could actually happen in real time.

At the end of the movie, everyone, from the president to the former head of the USGS and his now head of the USGS daughter, was crying crocodile tears. Myself, I can't imagine any geologist worth her/his salt not at least thinking: "Whoa, dude. That was so incredibly awesome!" as they watched a rift split the continent in half and fill up with ocean. In two whole days.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Accretionary Wedge #17 Time Warp in Water

I thought long and hard about where and what I would like to see. I thought about adventures in evolution (I would love to see the Burgess Shale critters in action - talk about living sci-fi), and some of the more renowned geologic features in geologic time (I would love to be a fly on [or in] the wall to see the onset of the San Andreas strike-slip movement or to watch the very young San Jacinto fault (~700,000 years) from start to present in fast-forward).

What I would really love to see are two water-related events from Quaternary time. The first of these are the Missoula floods originating in western Montana from the repeated failures of ice dams on the Clark Fork River. The second are the Quaternary lakes of the Mojave desert.

The repeated Missoula floods (potentially 40+, from the varve-like slackwater deposits in southeastern Washington called the Touchet beds) carved out the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington. The lakes, coulees, and river channels of the scablands were carved by the massive floodwaters (up to 500 cubic miles) that occurred repeatedly through the Pleistocene. They were identified in the 1920's by Harlan Bretz, who was derided as the flood theory of scablands creation just didn't mesh with the theory of uniformitarianism. Bretz's theories were finally accepted after years of research by himself and others, and I believe he was awarded the Penrose Medal for it. The flood events are also called the Bretz floods in his honor. The remaining lakes provide refuge for migratory birds, riparian and wetland habitat, and recreation opportunities for locals and visitors. I spent my childhood driving through eastern Washington passing by little pothole lakes, large, wide valleys with little ribbon creeks and riparian in the middle, scraped basalt ridges, and the windblown loess hills of the Palouse, wondering how on earth they got there. Luckily, between my geotech/engineer dad and local natural history class in junior high, I got to understand why way before college.

While living in SoCal, I spent lots of time in the Mojave, especially going up to Owens Valley or over to Panamint and Death Valleys. I occasionally went to Saline Valley and twice, maybe, to Deep Springs Valley. All of these valleys contained pluvial lakes, the largest being Lake Manly. The Mojave River flowed (just like in 2005) from the San Bernardino Mtns into a string of lakes ending in Lake Mojave. [I vaguely recollect that Lake Mojave may have had a discharge into Lake Manly via the Amargosa River]. I spent a very long day in 2005 driving a circle around Death Valley with my mom and 11-month-old as I couldn't get a hotel room. That year was probably the only time in my lifetime I would see Lake Mojave with water, the Amargosa River (in the distance) flowing, and Death Valley Lake a lake. It wonderfully blew my mind, and I would love to have seen all the rest of them full, as well. A few pictures from 2005 are below.
Silver Lake (filled from Lake Mojave/Mojave River)
Death Valley Lake

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Caja del Rio trip

Yesterday's sightseeing tour was to Caja del Rio, slightly southwest of Santa Fe. We haven't had much time to do fun sightseeing since moving, so this was a nice opportunity to see the lay of the land in the Santa Fe area. I've generally only been there for meetings, so I got to be a bit of a geo-tourist and passenge, instead of drive. Yahoo.

The road to Caja del Rio (the Rio Grande River canyon south of Otowi Bridge) goes past Santa Fe's landfill and across the Cerros del Rio volcanic field (as best I can tell from my limited home references). Once we got fairly close to the Rio Grande, we did a loop along the canyon edge on a Forest Service two-track. This was the five-year old's first two track drive on a bumpy road in a very long time (we did need to put it in low in several locations), and at one point she said "this road is making my underwear creep!"

The view across the canyon towards White Rock and Los Alamos. I think the tall, triangular-faced mountain in the background is Polvadera Peak. You can see the Rio Grande at the bottom of the canyon.
The five-year old and the SO looking north at a tributary canyon wall.

Part of what they were looking at - interfingered sediments and basalts. I have the Geology of the Jemez Region II (put out by NM Geological Society, 2007) at the office and plan to try and figure out the possible formations in this shot.

The windshield view from looking across the canyon. The five-year old said "We're gonna die!" (she says that about a lot of things, tongue-in-cheek).

Another underwear-creeping part of the drive. Silver Fox at Looking for Detachment wrote recently about two-track driving, so I'd thought I'd include these to continue the meme.

A set of beautiful lupines at the last part of the loop, near a stock pond.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More on Deep Creek...

I had found several nice, though informal, bits of information regarding the Deep Creek pillow basalts while hunting around on the internet last fall, but haven't found the one or two really good ones this time around.

However, I did find this link Major Rock Types of the Spokane Area.

The author discusses the Latah Formation, which underlies the basalts at the northern end of the canyon in the state park. The aforementioned slide (in the last post) occurred at the contact between the two. Below is my best shot of that contact.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Eastern Washington Pillow Basalts

One of my favorite hikes as a teenager, visiting family in Spokane, WA, was the disappearing stream at Deep Creek, a tributary to the Spokane River. I loved hiking there in the summer, when the creek was low, and popped in and out of view. It was another of those places that sparked my interest in earth sciences. Of course, when I was a young and fairly ignorant high school student, I never knew about the pillow basalts, just the stream going to ground. It took my ex and a lovely winter hike years later to note the pillow basalts. It has wonderful pillow basalts about a quarter to half mile upstream of the confluence of the two water bodies. In another post (when I have a little more time), I'll share more about the local geology there (think lots of basalt). I got to share it with my mother and daughter (and a friend, via cell phone) this fall. There had been a small slide upstream, and the trail through the canyon was rather obliterated, but the 73-yr old and the 5-yr old did very well at negotiating the basalt boulder field that comprised most of the hike.

The five-year-old, looking at a larger example.

A nice shot of several pillows.The 73-yr old and 5-yr old, in between columns of basalt, looking downstream near the confluence.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I'm back!

I've finally gotten internet access at home after my move last October. Phew! It took almost six months of wrangling with my provider to get the correct gadget with the correct software with the correct locational settings, and hours of phone calls talking to several folks (some helpful, some not) each call. Thankfully, it's done, and I can get back to the enjoyment of reading you all's blogs, writing comments, and writing my own posts. I have lots of photos and musings that I'm anxious to get into the blog and I hope to have two or three postings a week, now that I'm reconnected. Thanks to those of you who queried as to my whereabouts over the last months. Cheers! Coconino