In September 2010, a research consortium led by scientists from Utah State University began drilling the first of three continuously cored boreholes on the Snake River Plain in southern Idaho. The goals of this effort, the Snake River Scientific Drilling Project, are to study the interaction between the Earth's crust and mantle, to identify potential geothermal energy sources, and to track the evolution of the Yellowstone hotspot on the Snake River Plain.
The first borehole, located near Kimama, Idaho, is about 50 miles southwest of the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory. Because geohydrologic data are scarce for that area of the central Snake River Plain, the Kimama borehole, completed in January 2011, provided a unique opportunity to collect geophysical and water-chemistry data from the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer system, downgradient of the laboratory. Therefore, in conjunction with the Snake River Scientific Drilling Project, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey's Idaho National Laboratory Project Office conducted geophysical logging and collected water samples at the Kimama site. Wireline geophysical logs were collected for the diverging borehole, Kimama-1A and -1B, from land surface to 976 and 2,498 feet below land surface (BLS), respectively. Water samples were collected from Kimama-1A at depths near 460 and 830 feet BLS, and from the Kimama Water Supply (KWS) well located about 75 feet away.
Geophysical log data included a composite of natural gamma, neutron, gamma-gamma dual density, and gyroscopic analysis for boreholes Kimama-1A and -1B. Geophysical logs depicted eight sediment layers (excluding surficial sediment) ranging from 4 to 60 feet in thickness. About 155 individual basalt flows were identified, ranging from less than 3 feet to more than 175 feet in thickness (averaging 15 feet) for borehole Kimama-1B (0 to 2,498 feet BLS). Sediment and basalt contacts were selected based on geophysical traces and were confirmed with visual inspection of core photographs. Temperature logs from the water table surface (about 260 feet BLS) to the bottom of borehole Kimama-1B (2,498 feet BLS) were nearly isothermal, ranging from about 62 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Gyroscopic data revealed that borehole Kimama-1B begins to separate from borehole Kimama-1A near a depth of 676 feet BLS. Drillhole azimuth and horizontal deviation at total logged depth for boreholes Kimama-1A and -1B were 172.6 and 188.3 degrees and 25.9 and 82.0 feet, respectively.
Water samples were collected and analyzed for common ions; selected trace elements; nutrients; isotopes of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon; and selected radionuclides. One set of water samples was collected from the KWS well and the two other sample sets were collected from borehole Kimama-1A near 460 and 830 feet BLS. With one exception, data for all three zones sampled near Kimama generally indicated that the water chemistry was similar. The exception was found in the deepest zone in borehole Kimama-1A (830 feet BLS) where concentrations probably were affected by the drilling mud. A comparison of the inorganic, organic, and stable chemistry data between the KWS well and the 460-foot zone in borehole Kimama-1A indicated similar chemistry of the aquifer water, except for some variability with nitrate plus nitrite, orthophosphate, iron, zinc, and carbon-14. Radionuclide concentrations were either less than reporting levels or at background levels for the eastern Snake River Plain aquifer.