USGS News

Science and Policy Working Together to Help the Delta

Summary: Successfully resolving California’s long-standing water supply and ecosystem restoration conflicts in the Delta depends on sound policy based on the best available science Learn How the Disciplines Collaborate at the Bay-Delta Science Conference

Contact Information:

Eric Alvarez, DSC ( Phone: 916-275-7923 ); Leslie  Gordon, USGS ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Successfully resolving California’s long-standing water supply and ecosystem restoration conflicts in the Delta depends on sound policy based on the best available science. Fostering that collaboration is the backdrop for the 8th Biennial Bay-Delta Science Conference, October 28-30, 2014, jointly sponsored by the Delta Stewardship Council and the U.S. Geological Survey. More than 1,000 scientists, managers, and policymakers will gather in Sacramento to discuss the latest advances in scientific information and ideas on water resource management in the Delta, its watershed, and the San Francisco Estuary.

“Policies addressing California’s current drought, ensuring long-term water supplies, and protecting the health of the Bay-Delta environment must be based on the best available science,” said Mike Connor, Deputy Secretary of the Interior and the department’s lead water policymaker. “The Department of the Interior commends the Delta Stewardship Council and USGS for setting up this conference to bring decision makers together with scientists.”

“This is a major conference that highlights the most recent discoveries that influence management decisions on the Delta,” said Dr. Peter Goodwin, lead scientist for the Delta Science Program. “These discoveries include: how to anticipate and prepare for severe storms; assessing the risk of mercury impacts and new ways to minimize those impacts; and the importance of floodplains as fish food producers.”

The Delta, formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, is the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas, the hub of both the state and federal water projects, and a region of agriculture and recreational importance. These often conflicting uses have bedeviled policy makers and scientists for decades.

This year’s theme is “Making Connections,” in the spirit of “One Delta, One Science,” and highlights how management of the Bay-Delta ecosystem is at a critical juncture. Political and regulatory mandates require new ways of managing water exports while also restoring landscape-level ecosystem attributes and functions. To support these activities, scientists must make connections among the external forces that impact the system, management actions, and ecosystem responses. Equally critical is a two-way flow of communication between scientists and managers to better understand their respective needs, available resources, and ideas.

The conference will be held at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J Street, and begins with a plenary session at 9:00 a.m. on October 28. Participants include: Mike Connor, Deputy Secretary of the Interior as an invited speaker; Council Chair Randy Fiorini talking about the need for science that can influence strategies, planning, and behaviors that affect the environment; Dr. Goodwin highlighting six things the Delta science community has learned in the last two years; Delta Independent Science Board member Dr. Stephen Brandt talking about habitat quality from a fish’s perspective; and former Interagency Ecological Program Lead Scientist and current Associate Director for Projects at the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Anke Mueller-Solger, discussing new approaches to resolving scientific uncertainties in the estuary.

Several special sessions include: a discussion on the management of water and the ecosystem’s health through a drought; whether or not climate science can influence public policy in an era of drought; and “Funding the Delta’s Fiscal Orphans: Science, Governance, and Ecosystem Stress Relief” with an opening presentation by Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California.

The Delta Science Program partners with the Delta Conservancy in a discussion on Policy, Floodplains, and Toxics. This includes a session on implementing the Delta Science Plan followed by a presentation on the Interim Science Action Agenda. There will also be highlights of June’s Data Summit where a new era in information management and knowledge discovery was discussed.

The conference also features sessions on water policy including: predicting outcomes and working towards reconciliation; and the direct and indirect effects of large-scale restoration and its implications for science and management. A presentation on the Delta Independent Science Board’s comments regarding the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its reliance on habitat restoration is also scheduled. Approximately 185 posters will also be available for viewing during receptions on Tuesday and Wednesday from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. on the 1st floor of the Convention Center.

This year’s conference is co-chaired by Dr. Lenny Grimaldo, a fish biologist and water resource manager at ICF International, and Dr. Wim Kimmerer, a marine biology research professor at San Francisco State University.  More information is available at Science Conference 2014.

Measuring Landscape Disturbance of Gas Exploration in Eight Pennsylvania Counties

Summary: Landscape change in Pennsylvania's Cameron, Clarion, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, and Warren counties resulting from construction of well pads, new roads and pipelines for natural gas and coalbed methane development is being documented to help determine the potential consequences for ecosystems and wildlife, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report

Contact Information:

Lesley Milheim ( Phone: 703-648-7230 ); Hannah Hamilton ( Phone: 703-648-4356 );



Landscape change in Pennsylvania's Cameron, Clarion, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, and Warren counties resulting from construction of well pads, new roads and pipelines for natural gas and coalbed methane development is being documented to help determine the potential consequences for ecosystems and wildlife, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.

Using geospatial data and high resolution aerial imagery from 2004-2010, USGS researchers documented spatially explicit patterns of disturbance, or land use, related to natural gas resource development, such as hydraulic fracturing, particularly disturbance patterns related to well pads, roads and pipeline construction.

Spatially explicit data on the level of landscape disturbance -- which is geographic information systems data, mapped to a high degree of spatial accuracy -- is critically important to the long-term study of the potential impacts of natural gas development on human and ecological health.

Through programs such as the National Land Cover Database, and Land Cover Trends, USGS has a long record of studying the consequences of land-use and land-cover changes. The current level of natural gas development in much of the country, and its effects on the landscape, is an important contemporary land-use/land-cover issue.

"Landscape disturbance effects have consequences for the ecosystems, wildlife, and human populations that are collocated with natural gas extraction activities. This study examines the landscape consequences of gas extraction for eight counties in Pennsylvania; and is the final publication in the series that documents landscape disturbance in the Marcellus Shale region of the state," said Lesley Milheim, lead author of the study.

Data from this report will be used to assess the effects of disturbance and land-cover change on wildlife, water quality, invasive species and socioeconomic impacts, among other investigations.

Landscape Changes by County

County

Number of Gas and Oil  Extraction Sites

Hectares (acres) Disturbance

Kilometers (miles) of New Roads

Kilometers (miles) of New Pipelines

Cameron

28

70.1 (173.2)

3.3 (2.0)

0

Clarion

900

553.5 (1367.7)

185.3 (115.1)

14.7 (9.1)

Elk

702

397.9 (983.2)

210.5 (130.7)

4.8 (2.9)

Forest

1293

618.1 (1527.3)

287 (178.3)

8.7 (5.4)

Jefferson

1330

872.1 (2155.0)

316.8 (196.8)

19.6  (12.1)

McKean

3441

1320.3 (3262.5)

507.8 (315.5)

41 (25.4)

Potter

373

356.9 (881.9)

74.1 (46.0)

80.8 (50.2)

Warren

1500

501.5 (1239.2)

248.3 (154.2)

1.2 (0.7)

Of the 10,442 sites, 166 sites were Marcellus shale sites, 3,848 non-Marcellus shale sites, 5,358 oil sites, 1,461 other infrastructure sites, and 96 pipeline segments. Marcellus shale sites were dispersed across all eight counties with the majority of sites located in Elk (37 sites), McKean (31 sites), and Potter (26 sites) counties.

Non-Marcellus shale natural gas sites were concentrated in southern Clarion (703 sites) and Jefferson (988 sites) counties, with dense clusters in McKean (566 sites), Warren (255 sites), and Forest (339 sites) counties. 

Other infrastructure sites were dispersed across all eight counties with a majority of sites in Jefferson (317 sites) and McKean (423 sites) counties. The majority of oil sites occurred in dense clusters in northwestern Elk (296 sites), Forest (955 sites), western McKean (2,609 sites), and southeastern Warren (1,196 sites) counties. In general, Marcellus shale sites (1.8 ha) are about six-times larger than non-Marcellus shale sites (0.3 ha), which are larger than oil sites (0.2 ha).

The study, Landscape Consequences of Natural Gas Extraction in Cameron, Clarion, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean, Potter, and Warren Counties, Pennsylvania, 2004–2010, by L.E. Milheim, E.T. Slonecker, C.M. Roig-Silva, S.G. Winters, and J.R. Ballew, Open File Report 2014-1152, is the last of the series of reports relating to natural gas landscape disturbance in Pennsylvania, and is available online.

Revised Alabama Maps Feature New Design

Summary: US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use Newly designed US Topo maps covering Alabama are now available online for free download

Contact Information:

Mark Newell, APR ( Phone: 573-308-3850 ); Bob Davis ( Phone: 573-308-3554 );



US Topo maps now have a crisper, cleaner design - enhancing readability of maps for online and printed use. Map symbols are easier to read over the digital aerial photograph layer whether the imagery is turned on or off. Improvements to symbol definitions (color, line thickness, line symbols, area fills), layer order, and annotation fonts are additional features of this latest update. The maps also have transparency for some features and layers to increase visibility of multiple competing layers.

This new design was launched earlier this year and is now part of the new US Topo quadrangles for Alabama (840 maps), replacing the first edition US Topo maps for the states.

"Users in our state are very excited about the three year revision cycle of the US Topo maps,” said George Heleine, the Geospatial Liaison for Alabama and Mississippi.  “The Alabama Department of Transportation says that due to increased growth within the state, updated maps will significantly increase their utility across all disciplines within State Government”. 

US Topo maps are updated every three years. The initial round of the 48 conterminous states coverage was completed in September of 2012.  Hawaii and Puerto Rico maps have recently been added. Nearly 1,000 new US Topo maps for Alaska have been added to the USGS Map Locator & Downloader, but will take several years to complete.

Re-design enhancements and new features:

  • Crisper, cleaner design improves online and printed readability while retaining the look and feel of traditional USGS topographic maps
  • New functional road classification schema has been applied
  • A slight screening (transparency) has been applied to some features to enhance visibility of multiple competing layers
  • Updated free fonts that support diacritics
  • New PDF Legend attachment
  • Metadata formatted to support multiple browsers
  • New shaded relief layer for enhanced view of the terrain
  • Military installation boundaries, post offices and cemeteries
  • The railroad dataset is much more complete

The previous versions of US Topo maps for these states, published in 2011, can still be downloaded from USGS web sites. Also, scanned images of older topographic maps from the period 1884-2006 can be downloaded from the USGS Historical Topographic Map Collection. These scanned images of legacy paper maps are available for free download from The National Map and the USGS Map Locator & Downloader website

US Topo maps are created from geographic datasets in The National Map, and deliver visible content such as high-resolution aerial photography, which was not available on older paper-based topographic maps. The new US Topo maps also provide modern technical advantages that support wider and faster public distribution and on-screen geographic analysis tools for users. The new digital electronic topographic maps are delivered in GeoPDF ® image software format and may be viewed using Adobe Reader, available as a no-cost download.

For more information, go to: http://nationalmap.gov/ustopo/

2014 US Topo map of the Florence, Alabama area with the shaded relief and image layter turned on. 1914 USGS legacy topographic map of the Muscle Shoals, Alabama area.

Interior, Agriculture Departments Partner to Measure Conservation Impacts on Water Quality

Summary: The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new partnership agreement today that will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers' conservation practices on the quality of our Nation's water

Contact Information:

Ethan Alpern ( Phone: 703-648-4406 ); Michael Woodside ( Phone: 615-837-4706 );



ALTON, Ill., Oct. 21, 2014—The United States Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new partnership agreement today that will provide a clearer picture of the benefits of farmers' conservation practices on the quality of our Nation's water.  Working together, USDA's NRCS and DOI's USGS will quantify the benefits of voluntary agricultural practices at a watershed scale.  This information will strengthen the effectiveness of state and federal nutrient reduction strategies while protecting the privacy of individual farmers.  The agreement was announced at the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force Meeting.

“On a voluntary basis, the agricultural community has put extensive effort into the management of nutrients and reducing runoff into waterways. This collaboration will help evaluate the impact of farmers’ conservation efforts on improving water quality,” said Ann Mills, USDA’s deputy under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.

Mills said when hundreds of farms take action in one watershed, it can make a difference—it can help prevent an algae bloom downstream or lessen the need for water treatment plants to treat for nitrates.

The U.S. Geological Survey will now use Natural Resources Conservation Service data on conservation work to factor into its surface water quality models, which track how rivers receive and transport nutrients from natural and human sources to downstream reservoirs and estuaries. This information will help provide a more accurate picture of the conservation systems in the watershed that contribute to water quality improvement and will provide crucial information for voluntary nutrient management strategies and watershed planning.

“This agreement will allow NRCS and USGS to combine resource management capabilities with science, and will give us the information we need to prioritize the most effective conservation strategies so that we can improve the quality of streams throughout the Mississippi River Basin,” said Lori Caramanian, DOI deputy assistant secretary for Water and Science.

Working together, NRCS and USGS will develop conservation intensity data sets that reflect the value of conservation actions, but do not reveal private information about individual farms, ranches or forests. Protecting the trust relationship between NRCS and farmers and their private information protected by law is vital to the continued success of voluntary conservation on private lands.

“We know our farmers are doing great work to protect our natural resources. Our goal with this partnership is to be able to better recognize these achievements and provide conservation and water quality management communities with science-based information for improving water quality,” Mills said. “Farmers invest heavily in conservation systems to improve water quality, and we want to aid their decisions with the best science and information available.”

The conservation intensity products developed through the agreement will provide a uniform representation of conservation activities for use in water quality assessments at local, regional and national scales. Technical assistance providers will therefore have the assurance that they are using consistent and accurate information on conservation activities and a common platform for discussing conservation benefits.

Nutrient runnoff from many different sources, including urban areas and industry, impacts our nation’s waterways. By providing science-based information, NRCS and USGS can help farmers decrease nutrient runoff and improve water quality for their communities and downstream.

Visit the following links to learn more about: real-time nitrate monitoring, annual and seasonal nutrient loads to the Gulf of Mexico, nutrient trends, and the Mississippi River basin nutrient model  mapper.

Learn more about NRCS’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project Cropland National Assessment and the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative.

To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center.

Media Advisory: Mapping Changes In Beach Landscapes In Our Backyard

Summary: SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— During the week of Oct 20 - 24 scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will be working along the coastline from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing. Either by all-terrain vehicle, personal watercraft, or on foot, they will be surveying local beaches and the nearby ocean bottom to compile a three-dimensional map of how beaches change in northern Monterey Bay.

Contact Information:

Leslie  Gordon ( Phone: 650-329-4006 );



SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— During the week of Oct 20 - 24 scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey will be working along the coastline from Santa Cruz to Moss Landing. Either by all-terrain vehicle, personal watercraft, or on foot, they will be surveying local beaches and the nearby ocean bottom to compile a three-dimensional map of how beaches change in northern Monterey Bay.

Conducting these surveys over many years will ultimately provide a detailed picture of how our coastline reacts to changes in waves and sand input. The results can be incorporated into future scenarios of sea-level rise and climate change, contributing directly to Monterey Bay communities working on how and what to protect along their coastlines.

This will be the first of a series of surveys looking at how sand moves along our coast. Studying vulnerable and dynamic zones such as the San Lorenzo River mouth and the Capitola area before winter storms hit will enable scientists to measure how the beaches change, and will aid the understanding of how big storm events, such as those occurring during El Niño years, shape and erode the coast.

 

What:

Media availability for interviews and photo opportunity:
Scientific beach surveys by ATV, personal watercraft, and on foot.

Who:

Research scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center.

When:

Starting the week of Oct 20, weather permitting. Interviews in the field by appointment only: Call Jon Warrick, 831-566-7206 or Patrick Barnard 415-328-2087.

Where:

Northern Monterey Bay beaches from Its Beach (west of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum) to Moss Landing

Multiple surveys are planned for this winter season, and regular surveys will occur in the fall and spring during subsequent years to capture seasonal fluctuations and extreme events such as flooding from the San Lorenzo River. USGS scientists will also create beach maps from video captured during flyovers, and will attach time-lapse cameras and tide and wave gauges to local piers for a multi-dimensional understanding of coastal processes.