Citizens should not be alarmed if they witness a low-flying helicopter over the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the next couple of weeks.
Starting on or about Monday, February 6, and lasting for two weeks, the helicopter, under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will begin collecting geophysical measurements for scientific research purposes. This is the last in a series of similar surveys conducted in the San Luis Valley during the fall and winter of 2011-2012.
The helicopter will collect measurements over the immediate vicinity of Great Sand Dunes National Park located northeast of Alamosa, Colo. The helicopter will fly low to the ground back and forth to measure components of the gravity field. This effort is part of a larger study of the geology of the San Luis Valley that has been active since 2005. The National Park Service is a cooperator in the project.
This particular study should help answer some basic scientific questions about the subsurface of this area, such as where are ancient faults buried? What is the general shape of the subsurface aquifers? These answers could potentially refine our knowledge on seismic hazards and how much water is in the aquifers beneath the Great Sand Dunes.
The USGS is contracting with Fugro Airborne Surveys Corp., Canada, to conduct the geophysical survey. The helicopter is controlled by experienced pilots who are specially trained for low-level flying. The company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure flights are in accordance with U.S. law.
Editor: In the public interest and in accordance with FAA regulations, the USGS is announcing this low-level airborne project. Your assistance in informing the local communities is appreciated.