Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the Director of the United States Geological Survey, 1904-1905
Annual Report 26
- Charles D. Walcott
Remarks on the work of the year
Branches of work
The United States Geological Survey was created in 1879 for the purpose—as its name implies—of examining and reporting on the geologic structure and mineral resources and products of the national domain. To the adequate description of geologic formations and structure cartography is essential, and Congress early recognized this fact by making appropriations for the preparation of a geologic map of the United States. The topographic base map, in order to show with sufficient precision the relations of the geologic formations and the intricacies of the structure, must have a rather large scale and present considerable detail. No such map of this country existed in 1879, and its preparation was immediately begun. The waters of the country are of vast importance, and in a broad sense may be regarded as one of its greatest mineral resources. Hence, in the evolution of the work of the Survey, and especially in view of the great importance of the subject to the irrigation interests, Congress early began making appropriations for ascertaining the amount and quality of the surface and underground waters and when, in 1902, the service for the reclamation of arid lands was organized, that work naturally was placed in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior and by him intrusted to the Director of the Survey.
The three great branches of work carried on by the Geological Survey are, therefore, the geologic, the topographic, and the hydrographic, and with these, more especially the latter, is conjoined the Reclamation Service ; publication and administration constitute necessary auxiliary branches. Along these great lines the work of the Survey has progressed without essential variation for many years. The changes made have been due to normal expansion rather than to radical departure in object or plan.
During the last fiscal year, State cooperation, as explained in previous reports, continued. Arrangements for cooperation in geologic work were made with five States, the total amount contributed by them being about \$8,000, and arrangements for cooperative topographic surveys were made with eleven States, the amount available for such surveys being thus increased by more than \$100,000.
The work of the Reclamation Service during the last fiscal year was advanced as rapidly as was thought consistent with thoroughness and accuracy. Actual construction is now in progress on eight projects, as follows : Salt River, Arizona; Truckee-Carson, Nevada; Hondo, New Mexico ; Uncompahgre Valley, Colorado; Minidoka, Idaho; Belle Fourche, South Dakota ; North Platte, Wyoming and Nebraska ; and Shoshone, Wyoming. Proposals were received for work on the Laguna dam, Yuma project, California and Arizona; Huntley project, Montana, and the Fort Buford project, North Dakota and Montana. In several other States operations are at a point where advertisements for bids only await the removal of certain legal obstacles, the settlement of international difficulties, or the termination of delays on the part of local organizations or individuals.
The organization of the body of men constituting the personnel of the Reclamation Service, whose field of operations covers so large a territory, though necessarily difficult, has been satisfactorily accomplished, and precedents have been established along approved lines. The general allotment of funds has been made with a view to the greatest benefit to the greatest number, and from the broad standpoint of the welfare of the country as a whole.
One of the important features in the evolution of the irrigation work is the development of power, which the numerous dams and, drops in canals make possible. Plans were made to transmit the power being developed in many sections of the arid regions, by means of electricity, to points more or less distant, there to be used for raising underground waters, pumping waters lying above the line of gravity canals, or for various other purposes, and attention was also given to the character of the soils and of the water to be used upon them, the materials used in the construction of the works, and numerous other details incident to reclamation by irrigation.
Under two special appropriations of \$30,000 each, carried by the urgent deficiency bill approved February 18, 1904, and the general deficiency bill approved April 27, 1904, the Director of the Geological Survey was authorized to construct and operate at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition a plant for testing the coals and lignites of the United States, in order to determine their fuel values and the most economic method of their utilization for different purposes, it being provided that all testing machinery and all coals and lignites to be tested 'should be contributed free of charge to the Government. For carrying out the provisions of these acts the Director appointed a committee, consisting of Edward W. Parker, Joseph A. Holmes, and Marius R. Campbell, to direct the construction and operation of the plant. This committee received the heartiest cooperation from the manufacturers of such equipment as was needed for the installation of the plant, from the railroad companies in freight concessions and transportation for the experts and their assistants, and from the coal operators in the furnishing of coal in carload lots for testing purposes. Although the utmost expedition was used in the construction of the plant, it was not until the first of September that the testing work actually began. Between the first of September and the close of the exposition 65 carload samples of coal for testing purposes were received, and the results of the investigation were published in a preliminary report issued as Geological Survey Bulletin No. 261. The coals tested were received from 17 States and Territories, and much valuable information regarding the best uses to which the different coals may be put was obtained.
One of the most important facts developed during this investigation is the possibility of utilizing the vast lignite resources of the West in the manufacture of producer gas, it having been shown that a higher grade of this gas can be obtained from lignite than from ordinary bituminous and anthracite coal. The investigation also showed that the slack or fine coal produced at the dry, noncoking bituminous coal mines of the middle West, large quantities of which are now being wasted, can be profitably utilized by briquetting.
Additional publication details
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- USGS Numbered Series
- Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the Director of the United States Geological Survey, 1904-1905
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- Annual Report
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- Year Published:
- U.S. Government Printing Office
- 322 p.