NOAA Coastal Storms Program Grants

See the NOAA Coastal Storms Program RFP announcement that will fund projects in the following focus areas:

a)     Improving beach hazard observations, modeling, forecasting/warnings, and risk communication

b)    Addressing impacts of stormwater on natural resources and promoting best management practices

c)     Enhancing shoreline mapping, visualization, and management

d)    Hazard Mitigation and Community Resilience

Hurricane Sandy Competitive Grant Program

On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today launched a $100-million Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program to fund science-based solutions to restore natural areas along the Atlantic Coast, helping to deliver on the Administration’s commitment in the Climate Action Plan to make local communities more resilient against future storms. 

Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds

The following information was distributed by Tom Dahl, Senior Scientist, Wetlands Status and Trends, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009, was released on November 21, 2013 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This study tracked wetland changes in the coastal watersheds of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico as well as the Great Lakes. It concludes that more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost on average each year, up from 60,000 acres lost per year during the previous study from 1998-2004.

Notable wetland losses were recorded along the Gulf Coast (257,150 acres). The Atlantic Coast lost 111,960 acres and the Pacific Coast 5,220 acres. The watersheds of the Great Lakes region experienced a net gain in wetland area of an estimated 13,610 acres.

In some coastal watersheds, rising ocean levels are encroaching into wetlands from the seaward side, while development from the landward side prevents wetlands from being able to migrate inland. This dual threat squeezes wetlands into an ever smaller and more fragile coastal fringe.

The full report is available for viewing or download at: http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/

Rivalry & Collaboration – can they co-exist?

If you are a Mizzou fan, would you get on a bus driven by a Jayhawk fan? As we learned from Kansas City’s former mayor Joe Reardon, sometimes the rivalries run so deep that the answer is no. We are surrounded by rivalries and competitive mentalities every day. But we can still collaborate, can’t we? Unfortunately, sometimes the answer to that question is also no. A recurring theme of Monday’s presentations was collaboration. Everyone wants it, everyone wants to see it improve, but we struggle to find the right language to improve the awareness and knowledge of the other party. So the resistance continues. And we can’t work together until we can communicate and are willing to make some compromises along the way.

Mayor Reardon shared his observation that what we do is full of jargon that outsiders and executives either don’t understand or don’t want to understand. Our jargon isn’t approachable by legislators – just look at the descriptions of our presentations for examples. But the jargon is leading to results, and the technology is evolving to the point that we can make the data more and more relevant to the consumers. It’s making it easier to help people reach the conclusions that you want them to reach without having to explain everything you did along the way.

So how did we get to where we are? Throughout our history, technology has advanced, and infrastructure has been put into place that opens up possibilities that weren’t there before. Do you think that if the decision had been made to not complete the interstate loop around Kansas City that they would have built the Kansas City Speedway where they did? If the train yards hadn’t been built here (KC is the 2nd largest rail hub in the country) would so many opportunities been open for farmers to share their goods? Infrastructure enables economic development – if more things come to your community, quality of life will improve, the tax base will broaden and employers will want to come into the area and bring jobs.

Kansas City’s work to implement the 1 Gb Google Fiber demonstrates this principle, as it already seems that the value of homes that have the 1 Gb internet are higher than homes without, businesses are willing to move into the areas with the faster connections and bring jobs. We want things to be faster, even though what we have is probably enough.

All this can happen if we are willing to share our story and use the right jargon.

Collaboration was a running theme through the day. The Enterprise Architecture & Governance Committee of NASCIO now has a working group that is surveying states for successful stories of collaboration. Check out their site at http://www.nascio.org/atdvocacy/collaboration for more information. Eric Sweden noted that one of the most downloaded reports they have is the NASCIO top 10 priorities. It shows that we are trying to find the right things to talk about.

Nathalie Smith reminded us that having data and maps isn’t enough. We don’t gain knowledge and understanding until we share it. Michael Terner & Jeff Hamerlink showed CHAT, the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool that uses hexagons to show their state model results. Not a typical map representation, but it’s what the end users are accustomed to. This is a great example of finding the right lingo to fit the audience.

The Roll Call of States just emphasized our differences and shared challenges. Even with our differences we can collaborate with each other to share knowledge and experiences. With open minds we have a lot to learn from each other.

The afternoon panels again reiterated finding a common language. According to Stu Davis, most CIO’s don’t understand what GIS is and what we do. Zsolt Nagy and Rick Miller both stated that we can do a better job with the State’s constituents and our local governments and empower them with knowledge. Maybe with more outreach and education we can help open minds and work through our underlying ‘rivalries’ to work towards mutually beneficial goals. We need to open minds and break down the barriers – help them see what is in it for them so we can collaborate.

So why do we have such difficulty working with local governments in some cases. Do we want their data so another agency can beat them up with it? Of course not. Is it this perception that leads to the seeming competition to show you have the best data and reluctance to share? If we communicate better, can we get past this to improve collaboration? What can we do and how can we get there?

Keith Hangland from Kansas said that their clearinghouse has been very successful. Local governments can choose for themselves if they want to share their data. Turns out most have. Stu cautions us against setting expectations that we can’t meet, as there are always people who are going to try to stop you. Is that rivalry or competition or something else? It certainly doesn’t help with collaboration if you can’t even ‘get them on the bus’ with you.

Stu’s observation of what NSGIC could have done sooner was to engage the IT side of organizations. I think that emphasizes the need to communicate early and often to help the process progress. Dan Ross highlighted their experience with making sure you let the owners of the data know what they will get in return if they share. Erin Tesh from Maryland also experienced that it is very important for everyone to have an equal voice at the table.

So essentially, and in short, if we drop our ‘rivalries’ and just get on the bus, together we can really go a long way and truly collaborate. We can all find compromises that we can make to be successful. Otherwise we may be travelling alone…

Go for a dip in NSGIC!

– a blog inspired by a night time swim in Kansas City followed by chips & dip…

Today was the first day of the 2013 Annual NSGIC meeting, one of the most important days of the conference according to some of our members. The day started with a workshop from Platinum Sponsor Sanborn. They began by sharing information about the advances in remote sensing technology that support the collection of aerial imagery at a higher flying elevation. This provides numerous benefits, including, but not limited to reducing building lean. And, believe it or not, haze can be filtered out using more dynamic depth and better algorithms. If only we could filter the actual causes of the haze as easily! The use of remote sensing data was demonstrated in a case study of a SEMCOG (South East Michigan Council of Governments) project to analyze multiple layers of data to create a green infrastructure dataset. Between the internal QC by Sanborn and QC done in partnership with Michigan State University they were able to achieve 96.4% accuracy in their results, well above their goal of 85%. A note for Detroit residents – don’t dip into your neighbor’s heat… Thermal imaging can reveal that your house is heated! Finally, another emerging technology was presented: UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), which have more appropriately also been referred to as UAS’s (Unmanned Aerial Systems) due to the nature of the amount of supporting equipment on the ground. State policies range from allowing residents to shoot these vehicles down, to encouraging their use for environmental and emergency projects. The complications of their usage are compounded by the evolving regulations of the FAA. Sounds like a good opportunity for NSGIC to develop a position paper to help support states in educating stakeholders on what’s good and what’s bad about the technology.

The State Caucus was jam packed as usual. Although our states vary greatly in geography and legislation, there are still a lot of issues that we have in common. Including Federal funding availability and even the “Silver Tsunami” which refers to the business continuity during times of human resource attrition.

** If you are a NSGIC member, be on the alert for a survey in the next few weeks to gather feedback on conferences, the benefits of NSGIC and some important topics that we NEED your input.

Many feel that we need to branch out to our State, Local and Agency leaders. We need to ‘dip’ into the broad range of resources and a community that shares some of the same challenges and look for more opportunities for collaboration. Some words to ponder: “NSGIC is good at strategic thinking, we just don’t think that we are and we need to think about that.” Let’s take this organization to the next level!

Have you heard of ESF’s? These are “Emergency Support Functions”. There are currently 15 defined and accepted ESF’s. Several groups in the community continue to advocate for the creation of a dedicated GIS ESF. Everyone uses GIS to support the other ESF’s in an emergency and a good GIS needs data. Our partner organization, NISC (National Information Sharing Consortium), that now has over 60 members, is working with agencies to develop EEI’s (Essential Elements of Identification) that the professionals in each ESF utilize. Once those are identified, they can be incorporated into state’s SDI’s (Spatial Data Infrastructures). Anything that has that many acronyms must involve a lot of collaboration. Imagine what we can accomplish if we work together!

And there is no shortage of opportunities for collaboration. Some of the most recent additions are the collection of online sales taxes and changes to flood plain boundaries as our climate continues to change.

These topics and more are discussed in more detail at NSGIC’s mid-year and annual meetings. Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions and directly interact with their peers. Everyone has a voice and can benefit from discussions of our shared experiences. Are you willing or able to take a ‘dip’ into NSGIC? You won’t regret it. I know I never regret taking the time and making the effort into coming. I guess it could be the chips and dip talking though. Hmmm… something to think about.

Check back tomorrow for more!
– Kim

NSGIC Publishes Document about Location Data That Is Not Private

Newspapers and legislative hearing rooms are full of concerns over individual privacy.  While some of those concerns are well founded, there is a danger all data will be sequestered, that it will be locked behind firewalls.   If that happens, all transparency will be lost.  People will not be able to understand what is happening in their community.  They will not be able to make intelligent decisions or know how their government is functioning.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Information is the currency of democracy.”  NSGIC believes this and is especially concerned with attacks on locational information because Geographic is our middle name.   We have recently published a document, This Isn’t Private Information.  It presents five examples of locational data that is clearly not private.

  1. Street addresses, even with x-y coordinates, if no resident names are associated
  2. Property ownership and assessment records are purposely public records
  3. Aerial photography resolution is typically too course to identify individuals
  4. Published Census data is only summary information
  5. Google’s Street View™ and similar images

(September 17, 2013 Update)  MAPPS is also concerned about federal overreaction on privacy issues.  They have developed a resolution and other convincing material that document the value of imagery and geospatial information for the economy, public safety, open government, etc.  See Federal Issue: Privacy.

NSGIC Call for Awards

NSGIC is currently soliciting nominations for the NSGIC Outstanding Service Award and the NSGIC Lifetime Service Award. The NSGIC Outstanding Service Award is presented to an individual or organization has advanced the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, promoted NSGIC’s goal of efficient and effective government, and is likely to continue in their current or a more challenging position. Recipients must exceed the normal expectation of duty. The NSGIC Lifetime Service Award is presented to an individual that has given a ‘lifetime’ of notable service to NSGIC. This award is typically given to an individual who has served one or more leadership positions over an extended period of time; e.g., on the NSGIC Board, as an officer or as a Committee Chair. This award is usually given at the conclusion of the recipient’s career or at a transition point in their career. As this is one of NSGIC’s highest service award recognition, a recipient’s exemplary service must exceed the normal expectation of duty and have occurred over an extended period of time. Click here to view a list of past award recipients.

Click on the following links to view the criteria for each award:
NSGIC Lifetime Service Award
NSGIC Outstanding Service Award

Any current or former NSGIC member may nominate eligible individuals or organizations for this award. If you would like to nominate someone, please include detailed information concerning the nominee’s specific activities and responsibilities that make them eligible for the award. All nominations must be sent to the Awards Working Group Chair, Tony Spicci (Tony.Spicci@mdc.mo.gov) to be considered.  Nominations must be received by COB August 30th; any nomination without justification will not be accepted.

Digital Coast Briefing for Congress

NSGIC is a member of the Digital Coast Partnership which presented a briefing on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Digital Coast initiative. Digital Coast — a constituent-driven program — improves coastal economies and ecological health by helping communities address on-the-ground planning, resource management challenges with just, cost-effective, and participatory solutions. Reps. Ruppersberger (D-MD) and Young (R-AK) introduced The Digital Coast Act of 2013 (H.R. 1382) on March 21, 2013, and it has been referred to the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs.

Speakers for this briefing included:
• Jason Jordan, Director of Policy & Government Affairs, American Planning Association
• Chad Berginnis, Executive Director, Association of State Floodplain Managers
• Bill Burgess, Washington Liaison, National States Geographic Information Council
• Allison Hardin, Planner, City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
• Kurt Allen, Vice President, Photo Science, Inc.

You may view the materials presented at this briefing by clicking HERE.

California Public Records Act Decision

The following message was forwarded to NSGIC by Bruce Joffee, GISP, from the Open Data Consortium.  NSGIC is posting this message, because it signed the Amicus Brief that was filed in this matter before the California Supreme Court.

Interpreting the California Public Records Act in light of California’s Constitution, the California Supreme Court affirmed the public’s right of access to government information in the same format that it is used by government agencies.  The unanimous decision of all seven Justices explained, “Openness in government is essential to the functioning of a democracy.  Implicit in the democratic process is the notion that government should be accountable for its actions.  In order to verify accountability, individuals must have access to government files.”

It has been over four years (51 months) since the Sierra Club filed suit against Orange County for access to its GIS-formatted parcel basemap database (“OC Landbase”) under the Public Records Act, which precludes having to pay the County’s price ($475,000) nor having to sign a licensing agreement restricting use or distribution of the County’s data.  A year after filing, however, the Superior Court decided in favor of Orange County, agreeing with the County’s position that its OC Landbase was excluded from disclosure as “computer mapping system” software.  Sierra Club appealed, but 14 months later, the Court of Appeal found the statutory language ambiguous, and supported the County’s position that GIS-formatted files fall within the meaning of “computer mapping system.”

The Sierra Club appealed to the California Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case 3 months later.  After another 22 months, the Supreme Court decided: the lower courts got it wrong.  The Court decision says, “We believe the public records exemption for ‘computer software’ (§ 6254.9(a)), a term that ‘includes computer mapping systems’ (§ 6254.9(b)), does not cover GIS-formatted databases like the OC Landbase at issue here.”  Orange County must produce the OC Landbase in response to Sierra Club’s request “in any electronic format in which it holds the information (§ 6253.9(a)(1)) at a cost not to exceed the direct cost of duplication (§ 6253.9(a)(2)).”

The Court cited the California Constitution, (Article I, Section 3, Subdivision (b)(1)): “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business,” and Subdivision (b)(2): “A statute, court rule, or other authority shall be broadly construed if it furthers the people’s right of access, and narrowly construed if it limits the right of access.”   It also made several references to various Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) statements, particularly the brief from “212 GIS Professionals and 23 GIS Organizations” which explained the difference between software and data, made a distinction between “computer mapping system” and GIS software, illustrated the need for the GIS-formatted database over PDF-format pictures of the data, and pointedly noted that 49 out of California’s 58 counties are able to maintain their GIS databases without having to sell public record data.

Your interest and encouragement helped us carry on through initial disappointments to prevail.

Thank you for your support.

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, in which the GIS community is called upon to lend its expertise and participation to defend and extend our democratic rights and professional integrity.  Liberty requires vigilance.  Working together, our efforts can make a difference.

You can download the text of the decision at http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/mainCaseScreen.cfm?dist=0&doc_id=1985061&doc_no=S194708.

2013 Annual Conference Registration is Open!

Registration is now open for the 2013 Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri! Please visit the website at www.nsgic.org/2013-annual-conference for more information about the conference and to review the current draft agenda. The official registration brochure will be in the mail shortly. In the meantime, you can either download a printable registration form or visit NSGIC Online to register. You will need to log in prior to registering online. Remember to register prior to September 27th to receive the early registration rate!

We are also accepting applications for conference grants. Applications may be submitted online thru July 19th.

The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center is offering a special rate of $149, per room, per night, for the NSGIC 2013 Annual Conference for Saturday, October 26 thru Thursday, October 31st. In addition, the hotel will be offering the prevailing Government per diem rate to all attendees providing valid Government Identification. To make your reservation, call the hotel at 1-816-474-4400 or 1-888-627-8538, please reference NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council) when making your reservation (for both the group rate AND government per diem). Be sure to make your reservation before October 12, 2013 in order to receive the NSGIC discounted rate. Complimentary Internet service will be available to attendees in guestrooms and within the NSGIC meeting space.

Hope to see you in Kansas City!