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April 19, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Geological Survey

  |   Video
  • He recently briefed the Arizona Corporation Commission about earthquake hazards near the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Lee Allison, state geologist and director of the Arizona Geological Survey, talks about the state’s seismic monitoring network which is due to run out of funding this summer; earth fissures; and what may be a large deposit of a highly sought- after mineral near Holbrook.
  • Lee Allison - state geologist and director of the Arizona Geological Survey
Category: Science

View Transcript
Ted Simons Joining us now to talk about a variety of issues, including fissures, mineral deposit and what happens to all those rocks at the mining museum, is Lee Allison, the state geologist and director of the Arizona geological survey. Good to have you here. Thanks for being here.

Lee Allison: Thanks Ted.

Ted Simons: What happens to all those rocks?

Lee Allison: Some of it is going to go back to the people who donated it, loaned it, but the materials that belong to the museum, there's still a question long-term. So the survey has offered our assistance to the historical society, we've got the University of Arizona mineral museum, we're all working together to provide technical support and expertise as they pack things up and also if things are going to go out on loan or display, we're going to provide technical support to them.

Ted Simons: The idea of a mineral collection is one thing, but there are other things, there are journals, there are maps, there's research dating back over a hundred years. What happens to all that stuff?

Lee Allison: That's actually been transferred over to the geologist survey. In January we took over the department when they ran out of money, and we've kept the doors open for all their historical records and files. A lot of it is irreplaceable. One of a kind documents going back 150 years. So the legislature is just formally transferred the department and its assets, so come July 1st we will be operating those and making sure they're available.

Ted Simons: Historical society says we will include mining and mineral stories and history of that in the new Arizona experience. Can they do that? Is that viable?

Lee Allison: Wow. It's a big challenge to cover not only the history of Arizona, but the future of Arizona. And the five Cs and put all of that together in one building. And so I think it's pretty clear that they're not going to have anywhere near the space they had for mineral and mining displays. There are other mining museums around the state, there's a big mineral museum in Tucson, so we're all going to work together to make sure that the assets are preserved, they're in good homes, or if there’s temporary storage, that things are taken care of until a longer term home is found.

Lee Allison: Alright very good. I want to get to other concerns, including seismic hazards near Palo Verde. We saw what happened in Japan. Everyone is obviously concerned about that. Talk to us about what you found out there, what you reported to the corporation commission.

Lee Allison: Well, a lot of people think Arizona doesn't have earthquakes. We do. We have not had a major damaging earthquake since territorial days. And so that's good news. But it also lulls us into a false sense of security to some extent. We've had a magnitude 7.5 earthquake just over the border in Sonora in 1887 that did a lot of damage across southern Arizona. Fortunately people had a lot of this information when Palo Verde was being built. So it's built in one of the most quiet areas in Arizona for earthquake activity. So that was intentional. So that's a good place to start. Also, when they designed it, it was intended to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake at a distance of 100 kilometers or 172 miles. So that's what it's designed for. We don't see any earthquake capable faults in that region that would produce a magnitude 8.

Ted Simons: Wasn't a monitoring station out there vandalized not too long ago?

Lee Allison: Three years ago we set up the first statewide seismic monitoring that worked in the history of Arizona. And we had them scattered around the state. One of the stations we specifically located was west of Palo Verde to make sure we were collecting the kind of information that would give the plant operators the newest information about how the ground respond to earthquakes coming from California, say. Unfortunately, somebody stole all of the equipment. The power, the communications, the transmission, so it's gone. And we didn't have the money to replace it. So we focused more on keeping the rest of the network up and operating, and lost that station.

Ted Simons: Let's talk more about this network, the seismic monitoring network. I think we saw a map, if we could see that again, regarding -- it shows where seismic activity is around the state, it looks like a lot is clustered near Flagstaff. What's going on there?

Lee Allison: Well, if you think about the San Francisco volcanic field, we have 600 volcanos and the youngest one is less than a thousand years old. In geologic terms, that's yesterday. We have a very active potentially active volcanic region up there, and there's a lot of shifting and moving of the ground down at depth, and adjusting. So we're picking up a lot of that monitoring.

Ted Simons: OK.

Lee Allison: We're monitoring a lot of those small earthquakes.

Ted Simons: This monitoring effort, am I wrong, but I thought the funding was going to run out isn’t it?

Lee Allison: We got federal funding to about it equipment and install it, and we're doing a three-year study with all three universities in the state to try to assess a modern interpretation of the seismic hazard across the state. That federal money runs out in June. So we're going through a process right now trying to see, can we redirect money from other projects or find them from other sources to keep the network running which is why we didn't replace the one station that was stolen, we wanted to keep it running as long as possible.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Palo Verde, correct me if I’m wrong but there is one Fisher out there, correct?

Lee Allison: Yes. There is an earth Fisher near fat silt. It's win their grounds, but it's no threat to the facility.

Ted Simons: Other fishers of note Arizona, I think we have a map on this one as well. There we go.

Lee Allison: That's the Maricopa and Pinal county area, and it shows the -- a couple of the does study areas as we call them. There are four counties with earth fissures due to subsidence, rapid withdrawal of the groundwater, the ground subsides and it cracks so we have these giant fissures form. We are now mapping them we’re about 80% done making the first comprehensive map with high precision GPS instrumentation for the state. If you drive between Tucson and Phoenix down near eLoy, you go a little -- down the freeway, that's an earth fissures. It continues for eight miles and crosses the central Arizona project canal.

Ted Simons: But that canal is retrofitted for that isn’t it?

Lee Allison: It's especially line and they come back and retroif it so it they make sure it doesn't open and drain the canal.

Ted Simons: Good for them! Real quickly, we just saw a hole in the ground, we have another picture of this -- didn't a horse get swallowed up?

Lee Allison: Yeah.

Ted Simons: This is in queen creek, correct?

Lee Allison: That's in the summer of 2007 during the monsoon season, and two years earlier a mile south of there, that same fissures opened up overnight and a homeowner's yard disappeared the same way this did. This one, the rain were so intense, it opened up so quickly, the horse was trapped and after about 32 hours of trying to rescue it, it died of exertion.

Ted Simons: And then -- this is rare but not all that rare, it?

Lee Allison: Not all that rare. In north Las Vegas they lost 243 homes to earth fissures. We've been lucky, we have not had that same devastation, but there are dozens and dozens of homes and apartments built on or next to earth fissures all over southern Arizona.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we let you go, potash is a big deal up -- I think near Holbrook. What is potash, and why is this such a major -- could be a major factor, I guess is a major factor, as far as mineral deposits in Arizona?

Lee Allison: Potash is actually a term that came from the 1500s where they would burn wood in these big pots and extract the potassium. So this ash came out of the pot and they would spread it on the fields, make soap, they would use 90 glass making. Today 95% of the potash developed around the world is used in fertilizer. And there's a worldwide shortage. The price went up almost 10 fold over the last three years, no new mines anywhere in the world in 30 years. And we found in the last three years, that about a quarter of all the potash in the United States lies out in the Holbrook basin just south of interstate 40.

Ted Simons: Let's put this on the desk. We just saw a shot of that. That is basically what's been excavated up?

Lee Allison: That's a core, so it's the drill bit went down 800 to 1,000 feet below the ground, cut through the potash, and it's like a dark salt. And it is. It's a potassium salt. And then you extract the potassium, and it's one of the three major elements in making fertilizer.

Ted Simons: You mentioned though that there was exploration underway, and a lot -- isn't a lot of that under a national park?

Lee Allison: The center part of the deposit lies directly under petrified forest national park. And it cannot be mined, it cannot be leased. But we've got a number of companies drilling out there right now, there's probably 40 core holes permitted or having just been drilled and a major exploration effort out there. This could be a billion dollar investment to mine the potash, but it would be the first new mine in the world in 30 years, and the -- our estimate is there's up to 2.25 billion tons of potash. And the price spiked at about a thousand dollars a ton during the run-up of -- it's pulled back during the recession, but it's run ball game $400 a ton. So we're talking, there may be hundreds of billions of dollars worth of potash that could be mined out there in that region.

Ted Simons: Thank you so much for joining us.

Lee Allison: My pleasure.


  |   Video
  • You may not know what an “Ethnoburb” is, but you can find out from the professor who coined the term. An Ethnoburb is a residential and business area in the suburbs with a cluster of a particular minority population. Professor Wei Li of the Arizona State University School of Social Transformation will talk about Ethnoburbs.
  • Wei Li - Professor, Arizona State University School of Social Transformation
Category: Culture

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Ted Simons: The latest census numbers show the face of America is changing. One of those changes is the rise of what's being called ethnoburbs. A residential and business area in the suburbs with a particular minority population. One example is the grouping of Asians around Intel plants in Chandler. Here now to discuss ethnoburb is Wei Li, professor at Arizona state of University's school of social transformation.

Wei Li: Thank you Ted.

Ted Simons: Did I get -- is that what an ethnoburb is? A suburb but not the kind of suburb we're used to.

Wei Li: Exactly. What I meant by an ethnoburb was actually a multiethnic, multicultural, sometimes multinational suburb.

Ted Simons: You coined the phrase, too.

Wei Li: Correct.

Ted Simons: What got you started on this?

Wei Li: That's actually interesting story. It's about 20 years ago this time. I was in Washington, DC getting ready to go to L.A. to start my Ph.D. study. So I met with a man and asked me, why are you going to L.A.? I said I'm going to get my Ph.D. degree. And he got excited. He said, I am a professor at USC. Ask me anything you want to know about L.A. So I said, of course I've never been to L.A. before, first and foremost, I want to know where should I live? And he looked at me for 30 seconds, puzzled, then said, you are Chinese, right? I'm like, yeah, I am. And she said, you should go to Monday tray park area. I said, why? That's a Chinese area. Everyone knows. And you would feel very comfortable there.

Ted Simons: Everyone knows Monterey Park is a Chinese area?

Ted Simons: Exactly.

Ted Simons: You started looking at these communities, but we have it here, we mentioned what's going on in Chandler as far as the Intel plant, there are a lot of Asian businesses, Asian residents, restaurants, that is an ethnoburb.

Wei Li: Correct. I would say so. Because even 10 years ago my colleague, who also got a degree from ASU geography studied ancient Indians in the Phoenix area. So at that time he called the Phoenix area an inViSiBURB, meaning these immigrants were still invisible. But that's definitely not the case in the past 10 years. Because we do see Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants are actually, many of them actually work in our high-tech industry. For instance, the immigrants are no longer all what we think as lower scaled, less educated. For instance, nationwide, Asian Indians, more than 70% of Asian Indians, first generation immigrants have at least a bachelor degree and 43% of Chinese have at least bachelor degree. So they work in these high-tech industries. Like closer to Chandler.

Ted Simons: So I would imagine median family income would be higher than average, education levels would be better than average? Is this true?

Wei Li: Yes. Correct.

Ted Simons: How is it changing some of these suburbs? We can talk about Chandler in particular, but just in general, how is it changing the politics? How is it changing the culture? What do you see?

Wei Li: In that sense, I think it's very important in terms of seeing certain kind of tipping point, because you first see these inadvice -- INiViBURBs, people living in cookie cutter suburbs. When the population becomes more and more, we first see all these Asian super markets come up. And they're serving these customer needs. And then we see more and more labor force is more diverse, of different racial ethnic background, as well as our cities become more diverse in general. So in that sense, the politics have changed. It used to be when you live in the suburbs, overwhelmingly white American majority, now we have different groups, so we need to more consider the intergroup relations, and those highly scaled wealthy immigrants versus lower scaled in some cases, since we are in Arizona, many times we are talking about undocumented migrants, and SB 1070 and all these politics surrounding with immigration. So I think that -- and also my students inform me, saying, look at Chandler, I grown up in a high school, many of my classmates are Asians. So we see our younger generation growing up in the more multicultural, multiracial Environment than before.

Ted Simons: Are there other ethnoburbs around the valley, other areas that look like they're starting to pop up?

Wei Li: I would say mostly east valley, because many of our high-tech industry, Intel, Motorola, are in east valley. So I think definitely -- and even in Tempe, of course with ASU many international students as well as other minority groups.

Ted Simons: We can see it does look like it's east valley, southeast valley where most of the clusters R as far as the numbers are concerned, the increase is almost exponentially rising.

Wei Li: Correct.

Ted Simons: And you don't see any pause in that, any --

Wei Li: I would say so long as we have a high-tech economy, and so long as our economy become more diverse, our state will be able to attract more diverse immigrants. As well as other internal migrants moving from other states to our state.

Ted Simons: Last question, often with the immigration story, folks move to an area, they cluster, then in a generation or two, they move out to where that cluster almost doesn't even exist anymore. It's still there, but you have your little Italy and Chinatowns, but most folks have moved out. With ethnoburbs, these folks are moving out to the suburbs, with ethnoburbs they're already in the suburbs. How is that going to work?

Wei Li: I think that's the whole issue of changing immigration and the changing dynamics for our country. Because previously immigrants come to our country poor, less educated and generation or two they catch up. But now we see as the result of globalization, and also rising economy, in many of the other countries. Immigrants come with financial resources, they are highly educated, and they have skills. So in that sense, they choose to locate to suburbs directly, and these are the people, are there to stay. So we are actually really seeing the changing suburb of our country. Not just -- in many larger metropolitan areas we are seeing the trend. So -- so long as immigration continues, we probably won't see ethnoburbs disappear in 20 years or so.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good stuff, thanks for joining us we really appreciate it.

Wei Li: Thank you for having me. A great pleasure.

Mining and Mineral Museum

  |   Video
  • As the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum begins its transformation into a Centennial Museum, those affiliated with the mining museum share their concerns about the future of its extensive and valuable mineral collection.
Category: Culture

View Transcript

Ted Simons: But first, we have a follow-up to a conversation we had last night with the director of the Arizona historical society about plans to build a museum to commemorate Arizona's centennial. That museum will replace the Arizona mining and mineral museum, which has a history dating back to 1884, years before Arizona became a state. The mining museum opened its current location near the capitol building in 1991, but this year the museum is scheduled to close. So work can begin with a centennial museum. It's a sore spot for people closest to the mining museum, as David Majure reports.

David Majure: On any given school day, hundreds of students can be found hunting for treasure. At the Arizona mining and mineral museum.

Child: Cool!

David Majure: But that all ends this summer when the museum closes to make way for an Arizona centennial museum.

Joe Ann Hesterman: I just love this place. I’m sorry but I don't want to see it close.

David Majure: Joe Ann Hesterman has worked here since 1997.

Joe Ann Hesterman: I work here because I've always loved rocks and minerals.

David Majure: As a former teacher, she enjoys sharing her passion for earth science with many of the more than 20,000 school kids who visit the museum each year.

Joe Ann Hesterman: Every teacher I've had this year has been quite upset about the whole fact that this is closing. But the important thing is our book is full of appointments for school kids to come in here, and learn about rocks and minerals. They need to keep this museum open. It is Arizona's history.

David Majure: But recent history isn't on her side. The Arizona department of mine and mineral resources which ran the museum is no longer in business. The functions of that department have been turned over to the Arizona geological survey, and in 2010, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill transferring control of the mining museum to the Arizona historical society. Which will oversee its transformation into a centennial museum called the Arizona experience.

Bob Holmes: I was upset. It came about very quickly.

David Majure: Bob Holmes volunteers as chairman of the board for the department of mine and mineral resources, which ceases to exist at the end of may.

Bob Holmes: The idea of a new museum is wonderful, but not at the expense of the wonderful museum display we have here.

David Majure: Thousands of rocks and minerals are on display. Some belong to the museum, others are on loan.

Harvey Jong: We have a case of California minerals, we have Midwest, worldwide minerals, Arizona minerals are on this side here. First case here there’s Bisbee, we have all kinds of Bisbee minerals. Bisbee is a very famous copper mine location.

David Majure: The collection belonging to the flag mineral foundation is among the museum's finest.

Harvey Jong: This spiraled kind – this spiraled kind is one of my favorite, an unusual formation forms inside the caves of Bisbee.

David Majure: Valued at nearly $2 million, it's an impressive collection of specimens from Arizona and all over the world.

Harvey Jong: We're trying to find a new venue where we can display these minerals, because it's about preserving the minerals and allowing them to be displayed and enjoyed by the general public.

Ray Grant: I think everything on loan is going to be – well the people that have loaned it have the right to take it, and I think most people will -- they don't want to leave it, it's a little bit risky perhaps just to leave it in the building packed up somewhere.

David Majure: Ray grant is a geologist and chairman of the flag mineral collection.

Ray Grant: We're going to pack our collection, the flag collection, and hopefully we'll find a new place to put it in the next year or so.

David Majure: The future for the rest of the museum's collection is even more uncertain.

Bob Holmes: We're not sure what's going to become of these minerals? Are they going to be set away and stored forever? Are they going to be surplussed? We don't know. We're not sure they know.

Ray Grant: Well as far as we know it going to be packed. I'm here today, I want to go get some pictures of a few samples for a project I'm working on, because I don't think I'll see these things again in my lifetime. Seriously.

Anne Woosley: The mining museum will change.

David Majure: The Arizona historical society's director Anne Woosley says some specimens will be exhibited at the new Arizona experience museum.

Ray Grant: They're going to have a small mineral gallery, maybe a few percent of the collection will be on exhibit, and we have no idea what will happen to the rest of it.

David Majure: In an email to "Horizon," Woosley wrote, "because we don't wish to “warehouse” materials, thereby making them inaccessible to the public, working with others, we are developing plans to place displays at appropriate public locations and museums around the state."

Bob Holmes: We just want to make sure they're in good hands.

David Majure: Supporters of the mining museum hate to see its collection dismantled, and they're searching for solutions to keep it together.

Ray Grant: All the groups that meet here, are trying to get together, talk to the geological survey, trying to talk to the museum in Tucson, trying to see if we can find another location in Phoenix where we can actually have something equivalent, where we can have the educational program, where we can have a museum.

David Majure: Meanwhile, those closest to the museum are still hopeful they can save the place.

Joe Ann Hesterman: So we can keep this place open. We're fighting to the hilt. Some people might think it's a done deal, but actually, we're not going to give up until we have to give up. Our number one important reason for being, is education.

Ray Grant: My real feeling of loss was the kids, the educational program. And all the things they could do here. And I don't see where there's going to be a place like that for them. So to me, that's really terrible. The collection, I just would like saved, but my personal feeling is education, I just love what they do here with the kids.