The Arizona Senate has voted to restore the budget of the Arizona Geological Survey — cut last year when Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature moved it to the University of Arizona without any dedicated funding.
Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Sierra Vista, said she doesn’t have any agreement with the governor for restoration, but wants the Legislature to put the money back in the budget for what she calls “an important state agency that is world-renowned for what they do.”
The Senate passed the measure 28-2 on Feb. 23 and transmitted the bill to the House.
Griffin said the survey performs critical services for the state’s mining industry and real estate sector by mapping minerals and keeping track of earth fissures caused by subsidence from groundwater pumping.
The state’s mining and real estate organizations supported the bill, along with geological associations.
Griffin also cited the survey’s network of earthquake sensors and its work to create national networks of geology information. “They are not just a state treasure,” she said.
Griffin said the transfer of the survey to the UA without monetary support “was a mistake, in my opinion.”
She said she hasn’t spoken directly to the governor about restoration, but has spoken to his staff. “We’re going to have to fight for it, but we know House members who feel the same way.”
Because it’s “a money bill,” its fate won’t be known until negotiations on the budget at the end of the legislative session, she said.
Last summer, after the transfer, former state geologist Lee Allison cut staff and moved the survey to smaller quarters at the UA that had no room for its archives and mining core samples.
Phil Pearthree, who took on the director’s role after Allison’s death in August, said he has been encouraged by the university to restore some of the capacity lost in transition. The survey is hiring a part-time web specialist and an expert on geo-informatics, he said.
“We’re going to act like we’re going to be around for a while,” he said.
Pearthree was officially named state geologist and director of the survey earlier this year.
He said the move to the university provides a greater opportunity for collaborative research with colleagues in geosciences, hydrology and other fields, but its basic mission of providing information on the state’s mineral resources and geologic hazards needs some level of state support.
The survey was transferred to the UA last year as part of an agency consolidation proposed by the governor and approved by the Legislature. The move axed the agency’s $941,000 budget but did not provide funds to the UA to continue its mission.
SB1184 restores that same level of funding.