New location, promising future

Darin Moriki
Posted 5/18/12

The transfer of the Colorado Geological Survey to the Colorado School of Mines is almost a done deal. A bill transferring the powers, duties and …

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New location, promising future


The transfer of the Colorado Geological Survey to the Colorado School of Mines is almost a done deal.

A bill transferring the powers, duties and function of the Colorado Geological Survey (CGS), including the state geologist’s office, to the School of Mines (CSM) was approved by both the House and Senate last week, and only awaits the governor’s signature.

The Geological Survey was created in 1907, went defunct from 1925 until 1967, when it was re-established to help Coloradans live safely with the geological hazards that exist in the state. Its staff review geologic reports associated with new development in unincorporated areas of counties, and for any new school construction or critical facilities. The survey also operates the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The bill was presented to the Legislature as part of the effort to address budget cuts. The transfer is scheduled to take place Jan. 1, 2013, if CSM and survey staff can reach an agreement on how the move would take place.

“The CGS performs valued work for the state, including economic development-related work tied to minerals and energy resources, but we also have to ensure funds for critical work such as oil and gas inspections and oversight,” Todd Hartman, a Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman, said in an e-mail. “By shifting the organization to School of Mines, we believe CGS can continue to perform important public health and safety work, such as the avalanche-forecasting duties of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, land-use reviews for local governments and geologic-hazard reviews.”

The bill remained on Gov. Hickenlooper’s desk for his signature as of May 14.

Efforts to craft the bill first began when the state’s March revenue forecast revealed a $27 million shortfall in the state’s operational account of the Severance Tax Trust Fund, which is funded by taxes paid by extractive industries, including oil, gas and coal. These funds support many state agency functions. To solve the problem, the state’s Department of Natural Resources proposed reducing base funding for the Colorado Geological Survey from about $2.4 million to $1.25 million over the next fiscal year.

By transferring the powers of the Colorado Geological Survey and the Office of the State Geologist to the School of Mines, Hartman said, the university could offset budget reductions by having students, graduate students and faculty members assist in research and apply for grants. The bill also provides for the transfer of undesignated and unspent appropriations to the School of Mines.

Currently, unspent funds in the CGS budget go back to the state’s general fund for other uses. The bill establishes a cash fund for the survey that would hold any funds raised to be used exclusively for CGS projects.

“It’s our hope that we will be able to attract grant support for the work of the Geological Survey as well as work that our faculty will do in partnership with the organization’s staff,” Peter Han, the Colorado School of Mines chief of staff, said. “We don’t have any grants in our pockets that we’re ready to pull out, but I think we have a strong record of attracting research grants from both private industries and the federal government.”

Han said the transfer would have no effect on an existing collaboration between CSM and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that began last May, since both organizations conduct their own work.

“We believe CGS will have the ability to continue its mission, and conduct geological work in the public interest,” Hartman said. “We don’t have any reason to believe CGS’s relationship with the USGS will change.”


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