Landsat investigations of the northern Paradox basin, Utah and Colorado: implications for radioactive waste emplacement

Open-File Report 78-900




The first stages of a remote-sensing project on the Paradox basin, part of the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) radioactive waste-emplacement program, consisted of a review and selection of the best available satellite scanner images to use in geomorphologic and tectonic investigations of the region. High-quality Landsat images in several spectral bands (E-2260-17124 and E-5165-17030), taken under low sun angle October 9 and 10, 1975, were processed via computer for planimetric rectification, histogram analysis, linear transformation of radiance values, and edge enhancement. A lineament map of the northern Paradox basin was subsequently compiled at 1:400,000 using the enhanced Landsat base. Numerous previously unmapped northeast-trending lineaments between the Green River and Yellowcat dome; confirmatory detail on the structural control of major segments of the Colorado, Gunnison, and Dolores Rivers; and new evidence for late Phanerozoic reactivation of Precambrian basement structures are among the new contributions to the tectonics of the region. Lineament trends appear to be compatible with the postulated Colorado lineament zone, with geophysical potential-field anomalies, and with a northeast-trending basement fault pattern. Combined Landsat, geologic, and geophysical field evidence for this interpretation includes the sinuousity of the composite Salt Valley anticline, the transection of the Moab-Spanish Valley anticline on its southeastern end by northeast-striking faults, and possible transection (?) of the Moab diapir. Similarly, northeast-trending lineaments in Cottonwood Canyon and elsewhere are interpreted as manifestations of structures associated with northeasterly trends in the magnetic and gravity fields of the La Sal Mountains region. Other long northwesterly lineaments near the western termination of the Ryan Creek fault zone. may be associated with the fault zone separating the Uncompahgre horst uplift from the Paradox basin. Implications of the present investigation for a potential radioactive waste-emplacement site in Salt Valley include confirmation of lack of permanent surface drainage and absence of agricultural or other development in the area of northern Salt Valley. On the other hand, the existence of diapirism, salt-karst landforms, and extensive lineamentation of the northern Paradox basin suggest regional tectonic instability at least in the geologic past. Future reactivation of diapiric or other halokinetic processes, including lateral flow, would lead to plastic behavior of the halite that might cause emplaced waste containers to migrate within the diapir. At Salt Valley, existing diapiric boundary faults and intersecting joint sets in sandstone units on the anticlinal flanks could, if the hydraulic gradient is suitable, provide conduits to the halite core for circulating ground water from adjacent Mesozoic sandstones in synclinal areas between the salt diapirs. Moreover, the loci of major lineament intersections might be areas of somewhat elevated seismic risk. If the salt barrier of Salt Valley anticline should fail in the future, potentially water-bearing Mesozoic fissile shales and friable to quartizitic sandstones would be the ultimate repository of the emplaced radioactive waste.

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Landsat investigations of the northern Paradox basin, Utah and Colorado: implications for radioactive waste emplacement
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
ii, 49 leaves, [7] leaves of plates :map (1 folded in envelope) ;27 cm.; (60 p., 1 sheet - PGS)