West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey
"Experience has shown but one way in which to open up the resources of a country, and this is a geological Survey . . . ." With these words in 1869, distinguished West Virginia University geologist John James Stevenson advocated the State's need for a geological survey.
In 1897, the WVGES was established by an act of the Legislature with the purposes to, in general, (1) investigate the State's geological and physical resources, (2) make the results of these investigations promptly available to the public, and (3) provide topographic, geologic, and other maps of the State.
Chosen to head the new Survey was Dr. Israel Charles White, one of the most prominent geologists of that time. Under his leadership, the Survey soon became internationally known. White supervised the preparation of topographic maps covering the entire State and edited 34 geologic reports. By 1927, the Survey had made detailed geologic studies of every county except Greenbrier, and it can be claimed that this geologic record of West Virginia excelled that found for any like area in the world.
In 1934, Dr. Paul H. Price assumed the position of Director and State Geologist and the Survey entered a new period, characterized by an intensive program to examine more fully the physical and chemical properties of the State's resources. Extensive coal, oil, and natural gas studies were undertaken. Dr. Price initiated, in 1941, a cooperative U.S. Geological Survey program to study the ground-water resources of the State. In 1942, the Survey moved into West Virginia University's new Mineral Industries Building, later renamed White Hall in honor of Dr. I.C. White.
Map publishing reached a new high in the postwar years of Dr. Price's directorship and included a new State geologic map, shaded relief map, base map, mineral resources and mineral industries map, three editions of an oil and gas map, a limestone map, and, under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly 300 topographic maps.
By the late 1960s, the application of geologic information, long restricted to development of mineral resources, increasingly became part of land-use planning, water-resource management, building construction, planning of transportation and utility facilities, and the safe disposal of wastes. Consequently, when Dr. Robert B. Erwin became Director and State Geologist in 1969, the Survey enlarged the scope of its activities to include detailed statewide coal studies, land-use mapping, remote sensing, sophisticated analytical capabilities, and computerized data processing.
Under Dr. Erwin, the Survey established its unique Coal Program and began a comprehensive reevaluation of the geology, composition, and extent of all 117 West Virginia coal seams. Increased study of nonfuel mineral resources and important acid mine drainage research was conducted. Computerization of the Survey's enormous quantity of geologic data was undertaken. Significant publications were completed such as the fiftieth anniversary edition of Springs of West Virginia, and the West Virginia Gazetteer of Physical and Cultural Place Names. The Survey relocated to Mont Chateau Research Center, allowing most of the staff to be housed in one building.
The Survey's 100th anniversary year in 1997 found the agency achieving significant economies in operating costs while expanding public service and outreach functions, participating in an increased variety of externally funded research projects, and fully computerizing nearly all geoscience and support functions.
Today, under the leadership of Director and State Geologist Michael Ed. Hohn, the Survey remains committed to maintaining its long tradition of technical excellence and professionalism, and to providing quality public service to all West Virginians.
1 Mont Chateau Road
Morgantown , WV 26508-8079
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