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Mapping out a new mindset/
Studies indicate phosphorous occurs naturally
New studies change old ideas about area’s geology

By LEE JUILLERAT Herald and News 2/14/08

   Recent geological studies may change many long-held assumptions, such as where to drill for water wells and the impacts of fertilizer and manure on Upper Klamath Lake’s water quality.
   The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries released two geologic maps of Klamath Falls and Klamath County’s Upper Klamath Basin. Information gathering for the maps began in 1998.
   “It’s very interesting to have an understanding of the geologic history, and it’s different than what we thought,” said Ian Madin, the department’s chief scientist.
   Some key points
   n Most of the volcanic activity that shaped the Upper Klamath Basin occurred within the past one to two million years. “If we go back three million years, it was pretty much as flat as a pancake,” Madin said.
   n The upper basin has 464 volcanoes, which range from massive mountains like Shasta and McLoughlin to small cinder cones.
   n Identifying fault lines, which typically are sources of underground water, improves the probability of locating and drilling less expensive, high-volume, water-producing wells.
   n Many ridges and mountains previously thought to be lava flows that contain underground aquifers are actually thin layers of lava atop chalk rock, and are not good prospects for drilling successful wells.
   n Higher than normal naturally occurring levels of phosphorus are responsible for reducing water quality in Upper Klamath and other lakes.
   Ranchers and farmers who use fertilizers, and cattle manure, have historically been blamed for the unusually high phosphorus levels.
   Madin said the findings involving phosphorus are important because steps to reduce fertilizer use or cattle grazing could harm crop production and ranching while having little or no impact on improving water quality.
   Although the amount of naturally occurring phosphorus is small, 1 percent, he said the amount is 10 times higher than in other areas. Phosphorous is found in rocks, sediment and spring water.
   “Some of that impact of phosphorous is natural. If a large percentage is natural and farmers are not allowed to use phosphorous fertilizer, it could have no impact on the water quality, but could be detrimental to farmers,” Madin said. “Changing when and how you till may have more impact than how and when you fertilize.”
   Likewise, Madin stressed the importance of understanding the geologic history and identifying fault lines as being critical to “understanding the plumbing of the Basin.”
   He said underground lava flows “are very much like pipes … finding them is a key to finding a reliable water supply.”
   “We’re hoping that by pooling all this information in one place at one time it will help in the deliberations involving water,” Madin said. “That understanding is a key to determining how much you can extract.”

Images from Klamath
County Geologic Map
Series 118
LEFT: The state released two geologic maps of the Klamath area. BOTTOM: Location map of geographic features. The Dotted line is the boundary of the geologic map. UGB is urban growth boundary.

Studies indicate phosphorous occurs naturally

   Recent studies that found phosphorous naturally occurs in Upper Klamath Lake don’t come as a surprise to Richard Roseburg, an associate professor at the Oregon State University Research and Extension Center in Klamath Falls.
   Roseburg said phosphorous is a major element that contributes to algae blooms in the lake and the Klamath River. When the blooms die, the decomposition process uses oxygen in the water that can result in fish die-offs.
   He said studies have shown lake sediments are high in phosphorous, and that other quantities come from springs in and outside the lake.
   While phosphorus is used in some fertilizers for such row crops as potatoes, wheat and onions, he said “not very much of that tends to move out of the soil.” Phosphorus also is found in cattle manure, but Roseburg said the amounts are generally not significant unless large quantities are deposited in moving streams.
Copies of geologic maps available to the public

   Copies of two geologic maps of Klamath Falls and the Upper Klamath Basin are available from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
   Geologic map GMS-118 was started primarily in response to the 1993 earthquakes that caused widespread damage to the Klamath County Courthouse, 16 other downtown Klamath Falls buildings and buildings elsewhere in the county and Tulelake.
   Open-File Report O-07-05 is a mapping project that began in support of GMS-118 and expanded because of the Basin’s increased focus on water issues.
   “This compilation of 47 different geologic maps provides critical information for understanding the groundwater resources and the connections between groundwater and surface water in the upper Klamath Basin,” said Ian Madin, the department’s chief scientist. “It also identifies hundreds of newly mapped volcanoes in the area that have erupted over the past few million years into an environment of giant lakes.”
   The two maps are available on CD-ROM for $10 each. Printed copies are $15 each. They are available from the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, 800 NE Oregon St., Suite 177, Portland, OR 97232, by calling (503) 872-2750 or online at www. naturenw.org.



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