Geologic – 05 Significant Geologic Resource Management Issues at Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park: Geologic Resources Management Issues Scoping Summary

Significant Geologic Resource Management Issues at Crater Lake National Park

1. Geothermal Exploration and Development

There have been in the past, and likely will be in the future, significant issues regarding the influx of geothermal waters into the lake as well as the potential for geothermal exploration and development outside the park. In 1986, California Energy Company Inc. put down two geothermal test wells outside the park boundary, hitting steam at about 1,300 feet. The company had about 97,000 acres of the adjacent Winema National Forest under lease and had planned to drill 24 sites, some within one-quarter mile of the boundary. Although there was concern from the public that drilling may drain the lake (highly unlikely), the major concern of the park was the potential development of geothermal facilities in close proximity to the park. These issues were of such concern that Congress singled out Crater Lake along with 21 other NPS units as needing special protection under Section 115 of the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 1987 regarding geothermal leasing. This resulted in major monitoring and research efforts in the late ’80s and early ’90s. After the legislation was passed that required NPS input into future leasing and drilling proposals, interest in the area by Cal Energy and others declined. With the policy of the present administration emphasizing energy development, including geothermal resources, there still a potential for geothermal development to impact the park. The Crater Lake research did indicate that there is some influx of water at slightly elevated temperatures at the bottom of the lake. The concern now is that drilling may change this geothermal flow regime.

2. Water right rights and the drilling of a water well.

The park has proposed drilling a water well in the park. Although a water well would not tap geothermal waters, nonetheless, since the park has opposed geothermal drilling, the local public believes that this drilling should not be allowed either. There are also issues of water rights as well. The park does have surface water rights, but groundwater rights are questionable.

3. Seismicity and Geohazards

At present there is a low occurrence of earthquakes, but Charlie Bacon believes that the area may be due for a magnitude 7.5+ quake. There is no seismograph in the park and coverage in the area is poor. It may be possible to obtain an instrument from the USGS Volcano Hazard Team. However, rockfalls are an issue since a visitor was killed by a rockfall on the Cleetwood Cove Trail about 10 years ago. Help is needed to try to stabilize this trail, the only tail down the caldera wall to the lake. Major landslides into the lake could capsize tour boats, which are required to avoid the most hazardous areas.

4. Paleolimnology

The CRLA staff expressed a strong desire to study the sediments in the bottom of the lake. About two dozen 6-foot cores have been recovered. The park would like to continue this project to study the history of sedimentation, diatoms and other microfossils, and climatic history. Funding is needed to continue this project.

5. Other Issues

Caves: There are over 40 caves in the park that have not been inventoried and mapped. One cave was closed by the development of a road. There is a need for research on bats and other fauna. The park should work with the National Speleological Society (NSS) to develop a program of systematic inventory and research of the caves.

Disturbed Lands: Several old quarry sites need to be inventoried, evaluated (esp. for exotic plants), and reclaimed. Hazardous materials have been found in some including buried railroad cars with asbestos and PCBs. Some of these are 40-50 years old. The “Summer Dump” and “South Yard” are two sites that need to be reclaimed. The State of Oregon as well as the Geologic Resources Division should be contacted.

Wetlands: Wetlands have been identified but need more detailed study.

Unique Geologic Feature and Interpretation: The caldera left from the explosion and collapse of Mt. Mazama is one of the most unique features in the world. Although the last eruption was over 6,000 years ago, the Cascades are still highly active and the potential for further volcanic activity remains. There is ample opportunity for interpretation of the past, present and possible future of Mt. Mazama.


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