August 30, 2023 |

Photo – Geological Survey Map – Courtesy WSGS

The U.S. Geological Survey, in conjunction with the Wyoming State Geological Survey, is conducting low-level helicopter surveys west of Laramie. Areas of Carbon County from Interstate 80 to the Colorado border are included in the survey project as far west as Wood Mountain east of the Encampment River.

The surveys are collecting data about underground geology using scientific instruments. They aim to understand the distribution of groundwater, mineral, and energy resources, as well as the potential for natural hazards.

The helicopter will be flying 260-300 feet above the ground. The survey crew will fly predominantly north-south transects, covering a large portion of the Medicine Bow Mountains, as well as part of the Sierra Madre.

Surveys will not be conducted over wilderness areas of the Medicine Bow Mountains. The mapping and data collection will be conducted as weather conditions allow and are anticipated to take up to three months to complete. Any disruption to specific areas will be temporary.

Landowners and hunters in the area may be impacted by these surveys.

Covering more than 1,050 square miles, the new geophysical survey will use the latest technological developments that will allow scientists to develop high-resolution three-dimensional representations of geology to depths over 3280 feet (1 kilometer) below the surface.

The 3D models and maps produced from the survey will help understand the distribution of groundwater, mineral and energy resources, as well as the potential for natural hazards. Data collected as part of this effort will be made public and used by the WSGS and the USGS to guide more detailed geologic mapping at local scales.

The helicopter will fly along pre-planned flight paths relatively low to the ground at about 260-300 feet (80-100 meters) above the surface. The ground clearance will be increased to about 1,000 feet (300+ meters) over populated areas in order to comply with FAA regulations. Flight line separation will range from 330 to 600 feet (100-200 meters) throughout the survey area.

Instruments on the helicopter will measure variations in the Earth’s natural magnetic field and natural low-level radiation created by different rock types. This information will help researchers develop geologic maps in three dimensions.

The scientific instruments on the helicopter are completely passive with no emissions that pose a risk to humans, animals, or plant life. No photography or video data will be collected. The data collected will be made freely available to the public once complete. The aircraft will be flown by experienced pilots that are specially trained and approved for low-level flying.

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