Science Center Objects

Along the U.S. west coast, the Pacific Ocean, ocean floor, and winds above contain potentially vast energy and mineral resources. Developing these resources safely and wisely requires detailed information for each area of interest. One goal of EXPRESS is to inform ocean energy and mineral resource decisions.

In southern California, the offshore areas between Morro Bay and Santa Barbara include a diverse array of complementary and sometimes competing uses including commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, oil and gas extraction, multiple defense installations, and major shipping routes. With growing state and national interest in both offshore renewable energy development and sand and gravel resources, the patchwork of ocean uses in the area is growing even more complex.

Amy Gartman waits for an X-ray diffractometer

Amy Gartman waits for an X-ray diffractometer to analyze samples of hydrothermal sulfide minerals.

Far offshore of northern California, Oregon, and Washington lie scattered deposits of seafloor massive sulfides. These are mineral-laden mounds and chimneys that form when hot water from beneath the ocean floor vents and mixes with cold seawater, creating deposits with high concentrations of copper, zinc, iron, gold, and silver. 

There is a critical need for seismic fault, seafloor mapping, and site characterization data to evaluate the structural integrity of proposed energy projects and the environmental impacts to seafloor habitats. In order to make environmentally sound decisions about managing energy activities and developing mitigation measures, the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of offshore development on the human, coastal, and marine environments must be evaluated.

EXPRESS priorities that contribute to resource assessments include:

  • Investigate selected deep-sea mineral resources of potential industry interest
  • Extend bathymetry and backscatter coverage to high priority areas
  • Create a seamless map with benthic habitat classifications for targeted regions