In Washington, DC, when a news story runs in the Washington Post, front page, above the fold, its a big deal.
Well, LiDAR is a big deal.
On October 14, a major story ran in the leading newspaper in the Nations Capitol detailing the need for elevation data to support aviation in Alaska, and other applications across the continental United States. The focus was the potential of the 3-dimensional elevation program, 3DEP, being implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Washington Post is not the only outlet in the mainstream media to pay attention to LiDAR. Television station KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah reported on the use of LiDAR to penetrate vegetative cover to identify fault lines and potential landslides. Earlier this year, the Seattle Times reported on the benefits of LiDAR in the aftermath of the deadly Oso, Washington mudslide.
MAPPS, the national association of private sector geospatial firms, is leading a campaign to generate more news media attention to 3DEP and LiDAR. The effort is designed to convince Congress to increase funding for 3DEP through the USGS and other Federal agencies.
The Federal governments fiscal year began on October 1, but Congress has been unable to enact a single appropriations bill to fund government agencies and programs. A continuing resolution extends fiscal year 2014 funding levels through December 11, at which time the House and Senate are expected to send President Obama a single omnibus bill to appropriate funds for the balance of fiscal year 2015. That bill will merge most if not all of the 13 individual appropriations bills Congress would normally pass. USGS generally, and 3DEP in particular, are funded in the appropriations bill on Interior and the Environment.
John Palatiello, Executive Director of MAPPS and government affairs advisor to the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), testified in support of 3DEP before the House Interior and the Environment Appropriations Subcommittee in April and urged Congress to fully fund the Obama Administrations budget request for 3DEP in USGS. The House bill, H.R. 5171, includes full funding at $5 million. The bills accompanying committee report provides the details for USGS, Core Science Systems The Committee recommendation includes the requested increases forthe 3-D Elevation Program … The Senate Appropriations Committee report on its bill includes…$4,500,000 for 3D elevation activities…"
In July, USGS hosted Congressional briefings on 3DEP, with the support of MAPPS, to further explain 3DEP and its benefits.
MAPPS, NSPS and other groups are working the Senate to increase 3DEP funding to the House level of $5 million, or higher, when the Omnibus bill is considered in December.
The effort got a boost in July when the Obama Administration unveiled a climate initiative that included 3DEP for national elevation data coverage. President Obama said, "We’re going to do more, including new data and 3D maps to help state [and] local officials in communities understand which areas and which infrastructure are at risk as a consequence of climate change." Reports in the National Journal, USA Today, and the New York Times and other national media highlighted the role for 3DEP.
In order to leverage Federal funding, the USGS issued a broad agency announcement (BAA) seeking proposals from partners for data collection activities in support of 3DEP. After numerous delay and amendments, USGS clarified the terms and conditions for its cost and data-sharing program. While a December 12 deadline for proposals was announced, USGS has told us they would support an, open, rolling process in which proposals can be submitted at any time.
LiDAR data acquisition and processing for 3DEP is primarily accomplished through the Geospatial Products and Services Contracts (GPSC) awarded by USGS. All the incumbent GPSC prime contractors, and scores of subcontractors on the seven teams, are MAPPS member firms. The contract is currently up for re-competition, with private sector firm qualifications due November 24.
To enhance coordination and efficiency and to encourage the pooling of Federal and partner funds, there is an effort to have 3DEP designated as the repository for elevation funding. The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) released a Congressionally-mandated report, FEMA Flood Mapping: Enhancing Coordination to Maximize Performance which proposed The Office of Management and Budget should use the 3DEP implementation plan for nationwide elevation data collection to guide the development of the President’s annual budget request.
Few geospatial programs in the Federal government have received this much attention. 3DEP appears to have the best chance for success of any recent initiative.
John JB Byrd is the Government Affairs Manager for John M. Palatiello & Associates and MAPPS, as well as the Registered Lobbyist for NSPS.