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Three area counties eye high-tech mapping

Updated: January 1, 2013 6:25AM



CROWN POINT — Officials from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties met Thursday to discuss participation in the state’s $4.6 million global information systems mapping program.

Jim Sparks, geographic information officer for the state’s Office of Technology, met with officials from the three counties in the Lake County Surveyor’s office to discuss the Indiana Statewide Imagery program, its costs and how a partnership among the three can bring in federal dollars.

The mapping will be conducted using orthoimagery (aerial photography) and state-of-the-art LiDAR, a laser radar that will help provide three-dimensional topographical images. Work began 2011 with the first phase, the center of the state. The eastern portion was done in 2012 and the western tier, which includes Northwest Indiana, is scheduled to be mapped in spring 2013. The last time the state was mapped was in 2005.

“We are talking a statewide uniform data set,” Sparks said.

Demand for this type of information is growing and how it is being used is continually changing. Lake Surveyor George Van Til said the information is invaluable for drainage work since it shows detailed topography. Charles Miller, GIS coordinator for Porter County, said most recently the county used the LiDAR information it has in conjunction with tax records to perform reassessments.

Miller said the county was able to use a handful of workers to do the reassessments from a computer terminal compared to the 40-plus part-time workers hired to go door-to-door during the last reassessment.

Sparks said GIS information is more in demand every day from users of all kinds. For example, landscapers can use the maps to provide quotes for lawn work and roofers can use the information the same way. Emergency responders tap the data to determine the best point of entry to a building or a fire scene.

If the three counties commit their portion of the dollars to the project, the National Parks Service will pay for the mapping of the land in its boundaries within the three counties reducing each county’s individual cost.

The 2005 GIS survey of the state is one of the sources of information used by geographical search applications like Google Earth.

LiDAR was not available when the state was last mapped in 2005. Since then, some counties, including Porter County, have had their own LiDAR mapping done. Sparks said instead of remapping those areas, the information will be included in the state’s report, again reducing costs.

The base cost for participation in Lake County would be about $60,000. The LiDAR would cost another about $18,000. The parks would pay about $8,000 of that. Base cost for Porter County would be about $50,000 with the parks paying about $3,000 of that. In LaPorte County, the base cost is about $60,000 with another about $18,000 for the LiDAR. The parks department would kick in about $11,000.

So far, both Porter and LaPorte counties have committed the dollars for their portion of the project. The money must be committed by the end of the year to obtain park service funding.

“Everybody has agreed in principal,” Van Til said of his office. He will need to get the commitment for the funds from the county council since it eliminated the drainage levy.



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