Taking a new look under Washington’s surface

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This winter and spring have witnessed a flurry of LiDAR-(light detection and ranging) related activity at the Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Earth Resources as the new LiDAR program begins to take shape.

The ongoing collection of new aerial LiDAR data in western Washington will ultimately serve as the foundation data for mapping, geologic hazard mitigation, urban planning, habitat and vegetation modeling, and transportation applications.

Thanks to support from the Washington legislature last year, DNR is expanding the lidar view of Washington to provide our state’s communities information about the geologic hazards around them.

Our first few days of sunny weather allowed LiDAR vendors to make lots of headway in the lower elevations. Flights for the project began on March 17th in both the northern and southern collection areas (see maps below). Collection flights in higher elevation areas will follow the snowline.

Collection and Partnerships

DGER is an active participant in the King County LiDAR mapping project which began collections in February.  Managed by Kitsap County for the Puget Sound LiDAR Consortium, this project aims to collect more than 1,000 square miles of LiDAR data.

A couple of clear flying days have resulted in steady progress in the Puget Lowland areas.  Quantum Spatial Inc., the vendor that is contracted for both collection and data processing, reported that more than 75% of the area has been flown. Collection of the higher elevation areas will follow later this spring or summer, as snow retreats.

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Current acquisition status map for the King County LiDAR project

 USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP):

In partnership with the Skagit, Whatcom, Snohomish, and Lewis counties, the Swinomish Tribe, Sierra Pacific Industries, and Seattle City Light, DGER was awarded a grant from the 3DEP  program this past fall.

The 3DEP program aims to:

—Systematically acquire LiDAR elevation data over the United States over the next 8 years

—Offer grants to local agencies to partner on the collection and processing costs

—Collect over 5,400 square miles of LiDAR data in two areas of interest (AOI)

  • The northern AOI will cover large areas of Whatcom, Skagit, and Snohomish counties, and
  • The southern AOI will cover portions of Thurston, Lewis, Gray’s Harbor, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz and Clark counties

Another collection window for Puget Lowland areas will present itself again in autumn, when leaves have fallen, allowing higher accuracy for ground elevation models. We like to avoid collecting data in the summer as ‘leaf-on’ conditions reduce the density of ground hits we can obtain.

Want to know more about how LiDAR is collected?

Check out the “What is LiDAR?” tab on our  website and watch an informative video here, by NEON Education.

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A laser is mounted on a light aircraft in order to collect the data

Updates on these projects and other news for the LiDAR program will be posted through this blog or on DGER’s LiDAR webpage, so stay tuned!

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