Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/28/2001 01:10 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 19-DIGITAL ORTHOIMAGERY AND ELEVATION DATA CO-CHAIR SCALZI announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 19, Urging the United States Congress to pass legislation to fund the acquisition of high- resolution digital orthoimagery and digital elevation data for the entire state of Alaska. [The resolution was sponsored by the House Resources Standing Committee.] Number 0441 CO-CHAIR SCALZI explained that the technology being introduced in HJR 19 is "three-dimensional [3-D] mapping." The majority of Alaska maps were produced between the 1950s and the 1980s. The resolution asks the U.S. Congress to provide Alaska the funding for the same technological benefits provided to all other states. GUST PANOS, Chairperson, Digital Orthoimagery Subcommittee, Alaska Geographic Data Committee (AGDC), gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Alaska Orthoimagery Initiative, compiled by the AGDC. He explained that the goal of HJR 19 is to obtain funding from Congress to acquire digital orthoimagery and digital elevation data for Alaska, to be made available on the Internet for all the agencies and the public to use. [Mr. Panos followed the format of the spiral-bound booklet found in the committee packet. He also provided a map and 3-D glasses.] MR. PANOS defined "digital orthoimagery" (DO) as an aerial photograph that shows everything on the earth's surface at a moment in time, with map-like features that allow for accurate measurement and depiction of township and range, or latitude and longitude. He listed the DO specifications for five-meter resolution: statewide coverage; quarter-quad format, like maps in the Lower 48 with 1:24,000 scale; color-infrared imagery; national map accuracy standards; and North American 1983 data that is being adopted nationwide. He also described the DO specifications for one-meter resolution: urbanized areas, 227 federally recognized Native villages, major transportation corridors and the trans-Alaska pipeline; color-infrared imagery; quarter-quad format; national map accuracy standards; and North American 1983 data. MR. PANOS next described digital elevation data (DED) as an array of [elevation values] representing the shape of the earth's surface. He explained that existing elevation data for Alaska, which was derived from USGS [United States Geological Survey] maps, is not very accurate. He cited the specifications for DED: 30-meter postings, which show a latitude and longitude point every 30 meters; 7-meter vertical accuracy; and 1983 North American data. Mr. Panos stated that the uses of DED are to make geometric corrections for orthoimagery and to derive topographical information for calculating aspects, drainage, watersheds, solar insulation, slopes, and landforms, for example, and for generating contours. MR. PANOS provided an overview of the AGDC. Formed in 1993, the AGDC currently has 40 members representing State of Alaska departments, federal agencies, municipalities, boroughs, Native organizations, private enterprise, and the University of Alaska. Its purpose is to provide statewide leadership for surveying, mapping, and related spatial data coordination. Mr. Panos specified AGDC's overall objectives: to build geographic information partnerships in Alaska; to leverage resources; to promote the visions and goals of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure; and to serve as the technical advisory committee to the Alaska Land Managers Forum. Mr. Panos added that the reason AGDC was given approximately $8 million from the federal government was because it leveraged its resources by forming a partnership with those other groups. MR. PANOS mentioned aviation safety and infrastructure development, put together by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration], the "Capstone project folks," and Raytheon. He explained that presently the FAA is trying to provide leadership to improve aviation safety, air traffic control, and infrastructure development. He described eight "hot button" uses of orthoimagery: first, to increase safety via Capstone technology, utilizing more accurate data; second, to more accurately chart publications for both VFR [visual flight rules] and IFR [instrument flight rules] flights; third, to lower the instrument-approach minimums, resulting in more arrivals and departures; fourth, to augment planning information for airport location and development; fifth, to aid in managing airspace and creating 3-D traffic modeling; sixth, to plan and zone to protect existing and future arrival and departure routes; seventh, to accurately locate towers, power lines, and other aircraft obstructions; and eighth, to provide military area charting and routes for military and civilian traffic "deconfliction." Number 1240 MR. PANOS informed members that the Alaska Fire Service has compiled reported uses of orthoimagery in disaster response and hazard prevention. He said fire is a natural part of the Alaskan ecosystem, and fire management is fundamental to the protection and enhancement of human values, wildlife, habitat, and ecosystem integrity; wildfires burn approximately one million acres a year, and suppression response is based on statewide fire management plans. Mr. Panos also mentioned prescribed fire plans for fuel hazard reduction. He listed the following uses by Alaska Fire Service for orthoimagery: to assess fuel types and changes in surface features; to identify resource habitat to assess the level of [fire] suppression efforts necessary; to strategically plan prescribed burns; to locate natural fire barriers, which helps in crew placement; to pinpoint ingress and egress routes; and to plan relocation of village landfills for fire prevention. MR. PANOS discussed the Alaska Land Transfer Program. He said, "The state and federal government and Native corporations are in partnership to execute the largest surveying effort in U.S. history and a huge adjudication effort." The transfer will shift 104 million acres to the state and 44 million acres to the Native corporations. Mr. Panos stated that he had worked with the cadastral surveyors at BLM [Bureau of Land Management] "to put this together." He listed the following ways that orthoimagery serves as a reference source: to validate Native allotment locations with accuracy, thereby spending less money to do so; to develop survey plans for ANCSA [Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act] and state selections; to identify field [survey] transportation needs for four-wheeled vehicles, fixed- wing [aircraft], boats, or helicopters; to preview the landscape and estimate labor [costs], which are currently between $8-10 million a year; to determine what technology and techniques to use by previewing the landscape; and to delineate bodies of water that are 50 acres or more in size. Number 1559 MR. PANOS stated that everyone knows [development of Alaska's] natural resources is key to [the state's] economic vitality; consequently, [the state] must work with the best data available. He mentioned receiving help from Phillips [Alaska, Inc.], Minerals Management Service, and BLM to create the example in the committee packet. Mr. Panos highlighted some uses of orthoimagery in oil field development: to determine lease boundary locations, by projecting the lease boundaries over the orthophoto; to delineate hydrologic basins and the effect that oil development will have on them; to plan the routing of ice roads; to evaluate water sources for ice-road construction; to determine locations for infrastructure development; to locate ecological monitoring stations; to serve as the base material for [sensitive habitat locations]; and to use as a communication tool for public meetings. MR. PANOS turned to the issue of public safety and "Legal Access," a report compiled by an easement management team composed of state and federal employees as well as representatives from the Native corporations. He said many easements in Alaska give access to major waterways on state federal and municipality lands; there are approximately 3,000 easements in Alaska, many of which cross Native land. Mr. Panos told the committee that easements are not in good shape right now. He pointed out some color-coded lines on a map that indicated disputed easements and proposed easements. He listed the uses for orthoimagery regarding legal access and public safety: to identify conflicts between easements and land ownership; to reroute existing easements because of public safety concerns; to improve, maintain, and mark easements; to avoid placing easements in [environmentally sensitive areas]; and to identify discrepancies among [locations of reserved] easements to actual trails. Number 1838 MR. PANOS next pointed to Resource Assessment [and Public Use]. He read, "Public access to Alaska's natural resources is essential to meet increasing tourism, recreation, [and] development demands." He stated that good land-use planning and environmental assessment are necessary to ensure public access while meeting environmental considerations. Mr. Panos indicated an orthoimagery map [located in the committee packet] that shows a before-and-after picture of "the old Sourdough Campground" on the Richardson Highway, which was a mosquito-infested area prior to the application of orthoimagery technology. MR. PANOS listed the following uses for orthoimagery regarding resource assessment, compiled by the people in the Glennallen district and the park service: to locate existing ATV trails and assess their impact on land, water, and living resources; to inventory overused public access trails, in order to determine whether they should be shut down or rehabilitated; to plan for optimal location of new public access trails; to locate [publicly established] camping sites; to identify which camping sites are in need of restoration; and to plan for optimal locations for camping sites, so that people can get the best use out of them, while still maintaining the environment. Number 1980 MR. PANOS told the committee that according to the Department of Community & Economic Development, [more than] 35 percent of the communities in rural Alaska don't have flush toilets or running water; he added that he believed that figure had dropped to 30 percent. Many [federal, state, and local] initiatives are in progress to improve [conditions] in the rural communities, with a focus to improve the infrastructure in terms of sanitation, water, power, and transportation. Mr. Panos listed the following ways that orthoimagery could be used for community and economic development: to identify culturally and environmentally sensitive areas, such as salmon-fishing and berry-picking locales; to identify communities' existing and future land uses by mapping out trails, buildings, and roads; to identify the boundaries of ANCSA [section 14(c)] land claims; to verify the boundaries of the major landowners; to figure out hazards, such as flood plains; and to serve as an aid to communication with the people of the communities. Number 2085 MR. PANOS defined "Base Map Data Framework" as "layers of information" for which Alaska has a need. The framework is depicted on a graph [shown in the committee packet] consisting of the following elements: elevation; geodetic control; [digital] hydrography; bathymetry, which shows the depth of the coastline; cadastral [surveying], which essentially is showing the location of all survey boundaries; transportation, which involves getting coordinates on roads; government units, which shows who has administrative jurisdiction over which land; land- cover information, which shows land, water, and vegetation types; elevation [data]; and digital orthoimagery. MR. PANOS explained that elevation, geodetic control, and hydrography maps are complete, while bathymetry, cadastral, transportation, governmental units, and land-cover map work is still in progress. In contrast, (accurate) elevation maps and digital orthoimagery maps [for Alaska] do not exist. He said, as an example, that digital orthoimagery could supply such information such as the exact dates during which a pilot should not fly through a certain area, in order to avoid disturbing moose or caribou calving. MR. PANOS told the committee that the average map of Alaska is over 40 years old; many of the maps are over 50 years old. He added that there are no plans on the horizon by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to update them. He indicated the last statewide base [survey] for imagery was in 1978, for Fairbanks; he showed the committee two maps of Fairbanks [in the committee packet] and pointed out the changes in the area [over a 21-year- period], which are highlighted by the use of digital orthoimagery. MR. PANOS mentioned approaching the "Commerce Business Daily (indisc.)" with an RFI (request for information), to determine [data acquisition] costs. He called this the "sticker shock page." He said the collection of the digital information data would take approximately four years, at a cost of approximately $60 million. Regarding data accessing, Mr. Panos said that the information has no licensing restriction on it like many data; consequently, it would be put on the Internet as it became available. The information would be available on the Internet through the Alaska Geospatial Clearinghouse and could be ordered, either from the University of Alaska Fairbanks [a potential in-state repository] or the USGS EROS [Earth Resources Observation System] Data Center. He stated that the fee charged to the consumer would only be the cost of the compact disk. Number 2338 MR. PANOS spoke next regarding letters of endorsement. He told the committee that so far, [AGDC] has 55 letters of endorsement from the following groups: the federal government, including the National Digital Orthophoto Program, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Land Management, among others; industry and advocacy groups, including the Resource Development Council [for Alaska, Inc.], the Alaska Land Managers Forum (ph), Arctic Power, Institute of the North, the Alaska Airmen's Association, Inc.; private industry, including oil companies, engineering firms, and mining companies; conservancy groups, such as the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited; Native corporations, including the Association of ANCSA Regional Corporation Presidents/CEOs, Inc.; local government, including municipalities and boroughs; several State of Alaska agencies, with the help of Senator Phillips; and professional mapping companies, including "three of the more prominent ones." Number 2443 MR. PANOS showed a map of digital "orthoquads" currently for sale in Alaska "on what we call the 'National Aerial Photography Program' desktop," comprising basically the area from the Kenai peninsula to the Wasilla area. He noted that Alaska is the only state that does not belong to the National Digital Orthophoto Program. MR. PANOS explained that the National Aerial Photography Program takes aerial photography, which the National Digital Orthophoto Program turns into orthophotos. Referring to "the archive," he showed another graph depicting, in color, everything "covered" to date, which does not include Alaska. He mentioned a seven- year plan that spans from 1997-2003, in which Alaska is not included. Mr. Panos noted that recently the NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] shuttle project - a photographic mapping mission - covered an area from 60 degrees north to 60 degrees south, which did not include [most of] Alaska. MR. PANOS told members that spatial data is essential for planning, developing, and managing assets, improving living conditions, and protecting the environment. It increases knowledge and reduces uncertainties, allowing for better decisions from which "we" will reap savings. Mr. Panos indicated the value of spatial data used in "a good decision support program" is worth 1 to 4 percent of the total value of the resources being managed; for example, if Alaska had $1 trillion worth of resources, 1 percent would be $10 billion. Thus good infrastructure information would pay off considerably. MR. PANOS noted that the next point was procured from Australia: When there is good spatial data infrastructure, the cost-benefit is about a 1:9 ratio. He said some people at Ducks Unlimited figured out a 1:7 ratio on their return. He stated that the benefits of spatial data increase; more organizations have access to the data, which means that everyone is using good information on which to base decisions. Mr. Panos said that is the reason [AGDC] is putting the information on the Internet. Number 2625 CO-CHAIR SCALZI commented that the list of endorsements was impressive. Number 2650 REPRESENTATIVE FATE pointed out that a [pilot] could not file an instrument flight plan without a published navigational aid, and asked how the initiative would increase the number of published navigational aids in small villages. MR. PANOS said he would have to ask the people at the FAA. He added: The point they were making, to me, on this is that they don't have good terrain data out in the Bush, and so their approaches have to be very ... long coming in. They said if they had better terrain data, they could lower their approaches and get more people in and out. REPRESENTATIVE FATE responded, "Well, I'm a flier, and that doesn't quite add up to ... how it's done. But that's all right; we'll let it pass." MR. PANOS reported that actual products, developed with AeroMap and the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, would "come out of this program"; a variety of projects can be generated with orthophoto and with digital elevation data. He indicated some examples on the wall of the committee room and mentioned additional 3-D material. In response to a comment by Co-Chair Scalzi about the effects of wearing the 3-D glasses, Mr. Panos said the digital elevation data makes it possible to perform 3-D "fly-throughs" of an area. The U.S. Air Force is very interested in this technology, for example, because it allows using a simulator to practice air operations. Number 2770 CO-CHAIR SCALZI asked Mr. Panos why Alaska was not up to speed with the Lower 48 regarding this technology. MR. PANOS replied that the Alaska is too big, and covering an area of its size would be expensive. He said for years he has brought up the subject to the USGS, which is hesitant to deal with Alaska because of the amount of money that would be involved. He recounted that someone in North Carolina had suggested Alaska's "counties" could help pay, but he'd informed the person that the North Slope Borough, for example, is as big as North Carolina, but with only 10,000 people. Number 2845 JOHN ELLIS, AeroMap U.S., Inc., came before the committee to explain the purpose of the 3-D glasses that he provided. He said the digital elevation model is a 3-D model, which is accurate horizontally and to 2.5 meters; the 3-D glasses aid in seeing the model. Mr. Ellis added that land-cover information and other information can be draped over the model, producing "a whole new world - almost like something you can pick up." Mr. Ellis pointed out that this technology is not new; almost all image-processing software available today can automate these types of maps. For example, children could get on the Internet and download an image of their favorite campground to see what the elevation differences are. He mentioned software such as "Photoshop." Number 2969 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN moved to report HJR 19 out of committee with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal notes. There being no objection, HJR 19 moved from the House Resources Standing Committee.