David Noe of Boulder is a senior geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey. The agency is part of the Colorado School of Mines and does research and assistance throughout the state.
They assist when there have been rockfalls and other emergencies. They also produce tools that can be used by the public to understand their local geology. Last year he mapped part of Delta County including Hotchkiss. He is now mapping the area in and around Paonia.
"The better you understand geology, the better you understand your land, the better decisions you can make," Noe told those attending the Aug. 27 Paonia Town Council meeting.
The program, "State Map," is national. Each state is having its own geologic maps made.
"We are going around mapping populated areas of Colorado," Noe said. "When land use issues do come up, say planning a subdivision, or putting in a road or realigning something, even building a certain type of house, this map can be used as the background for a project."
The geologic map could also be used for fun. For example, it would show where to go fossil hunting with your kids or grandkids.
The maps are a good tool to use if you need to know what kind of strata is under a proposed house or building.
"We are looking at the pieces of the landscape and how they are fitting together," he said.
When Noe maps an area, he drives around and looks at the landscape and tries to figure out what everything is. "It takes a lot of geologic training to figure these out," he said. "Sometimes I just scratch my head and it comes to me later. But we try to come up with the best scheme we can to explain why the land looks the way it does."
The map view is of the geology of the earth's surface if you were in the air looking down on it. Noe and his associates don't do topographical surveying. That has already been done by others. The map area covers 58 square miles.
Noe has been in the Paonia area the last four summers. Each map takes about three months of field work.
Noe contacts every private land owner in the area he is mapping for permission to go on their land. Last year he asked 39 landowners in Hotchkiss for permission, and every one said yes. "Everyone was excited about finding out more about their land," Noe said. "They also had information to share with me. People know about their land."
Knowing the geology tells people a lot about what they can and can't do with the land.
He brought a piece of the rock from the "lamb" on Mt. Lamborn. He will look microscopically at a slim piece of the rock to determine what its composition is and what could have happened to form the rock.
He works a lot with Mancos shale, which is 5,000 feet of mud. There are 12 different zones in the Mancos shale. The Smoky Hill member of the Mancos shale produces a lot of selenium, especially when there is a lot of irrigation done around it. The Gunnison Basin Selenium Task Force is trying to protect fish in the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers, and so they need to know where the Smoky Hill is. The Smoky Hill is also the preferred target for oil and gas development.
When Noe's work is complete, the mapping and related reports will be available for free download from the Internet and will be used by the public, agencies, towns and counties.
Noe will be in the Paonia area this month. He has completed his work in the high country so he won't be there when hunting season is happening. You may see him working near roadways.
Once the mapping project is complete, everyone can know more of what Paonia is made of. The maps are beautiful pieces of art and one has been displayed at the Blue Sage Center for the Arts.
"There's a thousand wonderful stories that can be told about the geology and how the land out here was formed. Some day, I'll be telling those stories," Noe said.
Noe will be speaking at the Paonia Library in the future. He also wants to take local kids on a fossil hunting expedition.
The mapping project is funded 50-50 by the State of Colorado and the U.S. Geological Survey.blog comments powered by Disqus