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Reducing Disaster Tax, Improving Customer Service
Released: 7/7/1995

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Rebecca  Phipps 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4460

The new look and vision of the U.S. Geological Survey, focused on four public policy themes of hazards, resources, environment and information, and committed to reducing the nation’s annual disaster tax are highlighted in the bureau’s most recent yearbook.

"We have been working hard at the USGS to reduce the huge indirect tax that all Americans pay to repair and rebuild in the wake of natural disasters," said USGS Director Gordon Eaton. "This ’disaster tax’ now costs the nation more than $55 billion per year. Through more and ever-improving natural hazards research, we are determined to reduce that tax burden."

"To better serve the American people -- who in a sense are both our customers and our board of directors, the new USGS is rededicating its efforts to provide improved service to all our customers."

The 134-page yearbook includes information on USGS investigations and research in every state that touches the lives of every citizen every day. In cooperation with more than 1,200 state and local organizations the USGS conducts an $886 million program to provide "Earth Science in the Public Service."

Highlights from the theme areas in the 1994 yearbook are:


Lessons Learned from Northridge Earthquake, Jan. 17, 1994 - This magnitude 6.7 earthquake was the most costly earthquake in U.S. history, causing estimated losses of $20 billion. Although the losses were significant, they were far below the damage levels of the Kobe, Japan earthquake, due in part to improved building designs that incorporate knowledge gained from USGS earthquake studies. Throughout the main shock and the thousands of aftershocks, USGS scientists relayed earthquake information to members of the CalTech-USGS Broadcast of Earthquakes (CUBE) program, a system of rapid dissemination of earthquake information in southern California that alerts state officials and emergency response personnel within 5 minutes of an earthquake.

Tropical Storm Alberta Leads to Independence Day Flood - USGS scientists monitored and reported stream conditions from the onset of the storm until the floodwaters receded, to provide hydrologic information that is vital to the protection of lives and property. The information collected when Alabama, Florida, and Georgia were inundated by rains from tropical storm Alberto in July 1994, emphasizes the high cost exacted in life and property by flood disasters and the importance of preparing for, monitoring and documenting floods. The data are reported to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other federal, state, county and city government officials in developing land-use plans and emerging response efforts to minimize the effects of future floods.

After the Mississippi River Flood of 1993 - After devastating floods hit the Mississippi River basin in the summer of 1993, the USGS led an interagency study of the floodplains in the upper Mississippi River valley. The Scientific Assessment and Strategy Team (SAST) provided scientific advice and assistance to federal officials responsible for decisions about flood recovery in the Mississippi River basin. The SAST team compiled maps that show the extent of flooding, historical changes in stream channels, existing habitat locations, and other information to assist in river-basin management. Data were also incorporated into computerized demonstrations showing information such as toxics-release sites, areas most suitable for aquatic habitat restoration and levees that were breached during floods that can be used by decisionmakers in evaluating how to best meet the needs of areas affected by natural disasters.


Salt Mine Collapse - The Retsof salt mine, near Rochester, New York, is the largest salt mine in the western hemisphere, and supplies road salt to 14 states in the northeastern U.S. In March and April of 1994, two ’rooms’ of the mine collapsed, causing the land above the mine to collapse, and providing routes for the rapid migration of ground water into the mine. As a result, some local wells have gone dry. The USGS is working with the local health department to monitor ground-water levels in the area. The USGS is also constructing a computer model that will assess long-term impacts of such a partial mine collapse on local ground-water resources.

Energy Gases: The Nation’s Mix - Since 90 percent of all energy used in the U.S. today comes from burning fossil fuels -- coal, oil and gas -- understanding the nature and occurrence of these energy gases is important for the economy and the environment. A USGS study of the nation’s energy gas resources is providing a framework for discussions of the appropriate mix of energy for the nation, the size of gas reserves, dependence on imported fuels and global warming issues. (Graphic available showing typical proportions of energy gases found in natural gas.)


Pesticides in the Atmosphere - Because of their widespread use in the 1950’s through the 1970’s and their resistance to change or degrading in the environment, herbicides and pesticides have been found in the atmosphere in every state in the U.S. The atmosphere is a major pathway by which pesticides can be transported and deposited in areas sometimes far removed from their sources, according to the USGS National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program, which is studying pesticides in the hydrologic system, including ground and surface waters and the atmosphere. Because there is no consistent nationwide monitoring of pesticides, the NAWQA program is working with other organizations to develop more comprehensive monitoring of atmospheric contaminants. (Graphic available showing site locations and number of pesticides detected per state.)

Contaminants in the Mississippi River - The waters of the Mississippi River carry dissolved contaminants and bacteria that originate from a variety of municipal, agricultural, and industrial sources. The first intensive water-quality study of the entire Mississippi River system was conducted from 1987 through 1992 by the USGS in cooperation with agencies from states along the Mississippi River. Study results indicate that the chemical EDTA is the most prevalent chemical contaminant in the Mississippi. Concentrations of caffeine in municipal wastewaters are an indicator of domestic sewage and illustrate the extent to which sewage is diluted by the river. Agricultural chemicals enter the Mississippi from mostly nonpoint sources, usually as runoff from cropland during spring and summer.


Surfing the Sciences on the Internet - More than 10,000 people per month are now accessing more than 100,000 pages of information per month from the USGS via Internet. The USGS home page can be accessed by opening the Uniform Resource Locator and entering http://www.usgs.gov. A variety of USGS information is available on the Internet, including publications, job announcements and news releases, which are regularly posted and updated. Many data sets are available for direct downloading and may be ordered for delivery in other formats. The USGS World Wide Web Library may be accessed through the USGS home page.

Clearing the Way for Geographic Data - The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), a national information resource that helps users find, produce and use geospatial data, has established a clearinghouse to make access easier. NSDI is not only the organizations and individuals who generate or use geospatial data, but is also the technologies that facilitate use and transfer of geospatial data as well as the actual data. Through the NSDI Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program, USGS scientists are working with universities and governments in nine states to form partnerships to collect, manage and use spatial data. Partnership examples include the Natural Resource Information System of the Montana State Library, New Jersey’s GIS User Network and the Florida State University effort to integrate citizens and state and local governments into the NSDI.


Science in the Former Soviet Union - The USGS currently has cooperative energy projects underway in five countries of the former Soviet Union. The projects cover a range of earth science issues, from an assessment of energy resources to the development of data sets and other information to help the countries attract international investment. In Russia, USGS scientists are training Russian scientists in the design of five petroleum technology facilities at Russian research institutes. The Republic of Kazakhstan may have petroleum resources that are similar in size to some of the fields in the Middle East. The USGS is working with Kazak and Russian scientists on a study of the geologic nature and evolution of oil-bearing rocks in the new nation. In Armenia, the USGS is conducting an assessment of coal and other solid fuel resources. USGS scientists in Ukraine are helping to modernize Ukrainian petroleum exploration capabilities and to conduct petroleum resource assessments. And in Kyrgystan, USGS scientists are conducting an assessment of the nature, extent and characteristics of Kyrgystan’s coal resources.

Copies of the U.S. Geological Survey Yearbook for Fiscal Year 1994 can be purchased for $7.50 per copy from the Branch of Distribution, USGS, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO, 80225; telephone (303) 236-7477. Orders must include checks or money orders payable to: U.S. Department of the Interior - USGS.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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