3D Elevation Program Enables Cooperative LIDAR Projects in Your Area

In the aerial photograph below, can you see a geologic hazard?  How about in the LIDAR image of the same location?  If this and other uses for high quality topographic data interests you, read on and learn how to be involved in LIDAR projects in your area that include matching Federal funds.



The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is a cooperative effort spearheaded by the USGS National Geospatial Program to bring Federal, tribal, state and local agencies together with private industry to capture nationwide LIDAR.  Given that no one agency can fund LIDAR at such a broad scale, 3DEP emerged as a way to pool resources and systematically acquire high quality topographic data over an eight year cycle.  This is a huge undertaking given the high cost of data capture but a reality when approached year-by-year (i.e. 2014 was a success for 3DEP).

Are there enough benefits to outweigh the significant costs of LIDAR?  The importance of Quality Level 2 LIDAR (1 foot contours) in the U.S. is detailed in the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA).  See the full story at http://nationalmap.gov/3DEP/neea.html.  In short, the study identifies over 600 business uses for high quality vertical data and $700 million in annual benefits equating to a 5:1 return on investment.  The study identifies the use of high accuracy vertical data for a wide range of applications including:


The current status of high quality elevation data is available at the U.S. Interagency Elevation Inventory at http://coast.noaa.gov/inventory/#.  The site includes a search engine to find data in your area plus metadata and download links.


According to the USGS, the cost to acquire QL2 elevation data on a national scale is around $146 million annually for eight years.  LIDAR coverage for the State of Montana alone is $46 million or approx. $330 per square mile.  Through 3DEP the high costs can be overcome by pooling resources (i.e. the USGS received $6 million in matching funds for 2014 projects) to acquire data for Areas of Interest (AOI).  Other Federal agencies have funding to contribute as well such as the NPS and FEMA.  The idea is to combine resources in areas that have overlapping requirements so the data can be collected once and used multiple times by numerous parties.

For those interested in LIDAR and high quality vertical data, the most important aspect is to use the Collector Tool at http://survey.geoplatform.us/index.php/survey/index# to submit an Area of Interest (AOI).  Current opportunities are available for interested parties to work with matching funds from Federal agencies.  According to the USGS, final awards for the FY16 LIDAR projects will be released in November of this year.  More information is at http://nationalmap.gov/3DEP/.


A list of public meetings and workshops to cover 3DEP and review proposed AOIs is at https://www.geoplatform.gov/elevation/3DEP/PublicMeetings.  For folks in Montana, note the upcoming meeting on June 11th in Helena.



The FY16 proposed mapping projects and Federal AOIs can be seen at the NOAA sponsored Seasketch site: U.S. Federal Mapping Coordination The screen shots below from the Seasketch site are a few examples of proposed mapping projects identified by the USGS, FEMA and NPS for FY16.  The AOIs are highlighted with a red outline.

Proposed Areas_Legend