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This work includes new interpretations of shallow offshore geologic structure between Point Arguello and the Santa Maria River within California’s 3-mi coastal limit. These interpretations are based on multi-sensor high-resolution seismic reflection data collected during January and February 1986.

Water depths within the survey area range from 16 m (50 ft) nearshore to 70 m (230 ft) 3 mi west of Point Arguello. The sea floor slopes between 0.3 and 0.5° south-westward. The thickness of unconsolidated Quaternary sediment in the survey area ranges from 0 (bedrock outcrop) to almost 50 m (165 ft) off Point Arguello.

The survey area crosses the boundary between the northwest-trending Coast Ranges and the east-trending Transverse Ranges. The onshore faults and folds can be traced offshore in the seismic sections. From north to south, these faults include: (1) Pezzoni-Casmalia-Orcutt frontal fault, (2) Lions Head fault, (3) Santa Ynez River fault system, (4) Lompoc-Solvang fault, (5) Cañada-Honda fault, and (6) several unnamed faults offshore Point Arguello. These faults are tentatively classified as potentially active because they do not offset a Pleistocene erosion surface and the Holocene unconsolidated sediments overlying that surface do not show offset in the seismic records. Although the faults are tentatively classified as potentially active, they may be seismically active as suggested by the limited earthquake data in the area.

The seismic data show that the north-northwest-striking Hosgri fault zone decreases in both vertical and right-slip displacement toward the south. In the northern and central parts of the survey area, the fault zone consists of two subparallel branches. In the south, near Purisima Point and near the boundary between the Transverse and Coast Ranges, the north-northwest strike of the fault zone changes toward the east and the fault zone shows splays. Our interpretation of the data is that this area of splays may be the terminus of the Hosgri. If that is correct, then the amount of surface rupture due to earthquakes along this segment of the Hosgri is likely to be small, if surface ruptures occur at all.

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