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Preliminary geologic map of the Santa Barbara coastal plain area, Santa Barbara County, California

May 1, 2002

This report presents a new geologic digital map of the Santa Barbara coastal plain area at a compilation scale of 1:24,000 (one inch on the map = 2,000 feet on the ground) and with a horizontal positional accuracy of at least 20 m. This preliminary map depicts the distribution of bedrock units and surficial deposits and associated deformation underlying and adjacent to the coastal plain within the contiguous Santa Barbara and Goleta 7.5' quadrangles. A planned second version will extend the mapping westward into the adjoining Dos Pueblos Canyon quadrangle and eastward into the Carpinteria quadrangle. The mapping presented here results from the collaborative efforts of geologists with the U.S. Geological Survey Southern California Areal Mapping Project (SCAMP) (Minor, Kellogg, Stanley, Stone, and Powell) and the tectonic geomorphology research group at the University of California at Santa Barbara (Gurrola and Selting). C.L. Powell, II, performed all new fossil identifications and interpretations reported herein. T.R. Brandt designed and edited the GIS database,performed GIS database integration and created the digital cartography for the map layout.

The Santa Barbara coastal plain is located in the western Transverse Ranges physiographic province along a west-trending segment of the southern California coastline about 100 km (62 mi) northwest of Los Angeles. The coastal plain region, which extends from the Santa Ynez Mountains on the north to the Santa Barbara Channel on the south, is underlain by numerous active and potentially active folds and partly buried thrust faults of the Santa Barbara fold and fault belt. Strong earthquakes that occurred in the region in 1925 (6.8 magnitude) and 1978 (5.1 magnitude) are evidence that such structures pose a significant earthquake hazard to the approximately 200,000 people living within the major coastal population centers of Santa Barbara and Goleta. Also, young landslide deposits along the steep lower flank of the Santa Ynez Mountains indicate the potential for continued slope failures and mass movements that may threaten urbanized parts of the coastal plain. Deformed sedimentary rocks in the subsurface of the coastal plain and the adjacent Santa Barbara Channel contain deposits of oil and gas, some of which are currently being extracted. Shallow, localized sedimentary aquifers underlying the coastal plain provide limited amounts of water for the urban areas, but the quality of some of this groundwater is compromised by coastal salt-water contamination. The present map compilation provides a set of uniform geologic digital coverages that can be used for analysis and prediction of these and other geologic hazards and resources in the coastal plain region.
In the map area the oldest stratigraphic units consist of resistant Eocene to Oligocene marine and terrestrial sedimentary rocks that form a mostly southward-dipping and laterally continuous sequence along the south flank of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Less resistant, but more variably deformed, Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene marine sedimentary rocks and deposits are exposed in the lower Santa Ynez foothills and in the coastal hills and sea cliffs farther south. Pleistocene and Holocene surficial alluvial, colluvial, estuarine, and marine-terrace deposits directly underlie much of the low-lying coastal plain area, and similar-aged alluvial and landslide deposits locally mantle the lower flanks of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
Structurally, the Santa Barbara coastal plain area is dominated by the Santa Barbara fold and fault belt, an east-west-trending zone of Quaternary, partly active folds and blind and exposed reverse and thrust faults. The dominant trend of individual structures within the belt is west-northwest -- slightly oblique to the overall trend of the fold and fault belt. A conspicuous exception, however, is the More Ranch fault system, which strikes east-northeast across the fold and f

Publication Year 2002
Title Preliminary geologic map of the Santa Barbara coastal plain area, Santa Barbara County, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr2002136
Authors Scott A. Minor, Karl S. Kellogg, Richard G. Stanley, Paul Stone, Charles L. Powell, Larry D. Gurrola, Amy J. Selting, Theodore R. Brandt
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2002-136
Index ID ofr2002136
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization U.S. Geological Survey