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WMU geological survey unit to tackle Calhoun County mapping

by Cheryl Roland

Nov. 4, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--Just weeks after being designated by the state as the home to the Michigan Geological Survey, Western Michigan University will launch its first major geological mapping project in neighboring Calhoun County.

The Michigan Legislature recently transferred mapping and natural resource assessment functions to WMU from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Office of Geological Survey. Dr. Alan Kehew, professor of geosciences and director of the survey at WMU, will direct the Calhoun County mapping project. He has conducted several prior state mapping projects in collaboration with the MDEQ.

This is the first time Calhoun County has ever been mapped at a detailed scale, and the geologic map that does exist covers the entire state and has not been updated since the early 1980s, Kehew says.

"We are very excited about this work because the information yielded by these projects will lay the foundation for future land-use planning and economic development for the area," he notes.

The four-year Calhoun County effort will be funded through two programs administered by the U.S. Geological Survey. Both programs--STATEMAP and the Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition--provide funds to state geological surveys to make maps that benefit the state.

Two related grants, which were begun earlier, are also being transferred from the MDEQ to WMU, including a STATEMAP grant of $40,000 and a coalition grant of $62,000. MDEQ will continue to be involved in those grants as the overall responsibility shifts to the survey at WMU, and the University takes the lead on providing the vital information that geological maps can show.

"Geologic maps are vital to planning all residential, commercial and industrial projects," says Dr. Mohamed Sultan, chair of WMU's Department of Geological Sciences where the survey is now housed. "They are essential in locating aggregate resources, delineating and managing groundwater resources, cleaning up contaminated sites, and reducing future losses of life and property due to geologic hazards. An economic study of completed geologic maps in Kentucky showed that their economic value to the state ranged from 25 to 30 times the amount invested in mapping."