A Smart State

August 31, 2011
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For decades, government agencies, emergency personnel and other consumers of geospatial data have relied primarily on paper USGS maps at 1:24,000 scale. In 2001, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania set out to modernize its geospatial data system by launching the PAMAP program. Managed as a partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Office of Administration – Office for Information Technology (OIT), the PAMAP program aimed to reduce duplication, increase accuracy, encourage sharing and provide a consistent and up-to-date foundational basemap. A primary consideration was to redirect the funds used for updating the 1:24,000-scale paper USGS maps to help produce 1:2,400-scale digital data that meets increasingly detailed and sophisticated needs.

On behalf of the Commonwealth, The Pennsylvania State University was authorized to manage PAMAP production and coordinate long-term PAMAP program design and implementation. Through a professional services qualification process, Penn State selected BAE Systems to capture, process and deliver color orthophotography at a 1 foot (30 centimeter) ground sample distance (GSD) over one third of Pennsylvania starting in 2005 and each year thereafter to complete full state coverage.

“Mapping 15,000 to 16,000 square miles each year was daunting--a challenge not easily taken on and successfully accomplished,” says Pennsylvania State University’s Doug Miller. “Logistics, weather and the timing of fund availability easily made PAMAP one of the most, if not the most, challenging state-level mapping programs in America.”

The foundational geospatial data produced through the PAMAP program is already being used in many diverse ways by agencies, industry and various end users. At the federal level, PAMAP data is being used for applications such as flood map modernization at FEMA, flood modeling at the US Army Corps of Engineers, and as the imagery base for portions of the 133 Cities Program at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

At the state level, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is using the imagery to update road networks, and the Department of Environmental Protection uses the data for abandoned mine reclamation. According to Taylor, it doesn’t matter which side of the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling issue someone is on. “Everyone is interested in using this high-resolution and accurate data for performing modeling and analyzing the situation,” she says.

BAE Systems is a MAPPS member firm. The company received the Grand Award in the inaugural 2011 PA-MAPPS Geospatial Excellence Awards Competition for its role in the PAMAP project.

The impact of PAMAP data at the county and municipal level is growing as the data is increasingly used in the Commonwealth. Many counties have started to update parcels, create road networks and perform an inventory of infrastructure using PAMAP data. Municipal governments and engineering firms are also realizing the value of the data in providing time and cost savings for municipal projects. “The LiDAR data from PAMAP has supported numerous flood management studies, sanitary sewer plans and zoning issues,” Miller says. “Some municipalities have saved tens of thousands of dollars simply by having access to this detailed data.”

The data is also proving valuable in wind farm development, natural gas exploration and search and rescue operations.

As the geospatial sciences become more ingrained in the everyday lives of individuals, PAMAP is an integral and necessary component to Pennsylvania government. The layers of orthorectified imagery and elevation data are being used extensively throughout the Commonwealth for a myriad of purposes. Additionally, these data layers are the foundation for numerous other data layers. “BAE Systems overcame many complex challenges to ensure that the PAMAP program supports the needs of the Pennsylvania community and will integrate seamlessly into the National Map,” Taylor says, “so that PAMAP will continue to be a keystone element in making intelligent decisions for years to come.”

PAMAP Benefits

Cost savings. One of the major benefits of the PAMAP program was eliminating redundant and independent digital mapping activities commonly conducted by counties, regional councils of government and state agencies while lowering the cost of data creation, maintenance, analysis and mapping application development to local. Many previous mapping efforts of different levels of government were at different scales and specifications, resulting in a patchwork of information of varying usefulness. PAMAP created a more uniform and consistent library of accurate geospatial data.

Consistency. The program built standardized statewide seamless mapping capable of supporting micro and macro scales of analysis, thereby supporting the needs of all local, state and federal governments and fully expanding the utility of data in support of regional planning, assessment and management of transportation, land use, watersheds and emergency response.

Disaster response and prevention. PAMAP improves and promotes cross-border delivery of county government services such as emergency dispatch and client access to local social service providers. The data provides for more accurate modeling of hazards and management of events.

Improved accessibility. Recurring updates of more-accurate data (1:2,400) than that available from the USGS topographic quandrangle program (1:24,000) improves accessibility and puts current data in the hands of millions more users.

Economic development. PAMAP has led to the establishment of new market opportunities such as location-based services based on accurate, standard and regularly maintained data.

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