Wisconsin Geospatial News

Wide range of topics at WLIA regional conference

Attendance was relatively light at the most recent Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA) regional meeting in Sturgeon Bay, but the WLIA Education Committee did a great job as usual pulling together a nice agenda. In the past, most WLIA regional meetings focused on a technical workshop, or a series of presentations that fit into a single theme. This time the Committee mixed things up a bit (in a good way), and instead invited presentations on a wide range of topics.

Many in the audience were very interested in a presentation by Brian McGee from American Transmission Company (ATC). He demonstrated a slick system they use for georeferencing oblique aerial photographs taken from a helicopter. Using a very simple interface (“even a lawyer can use it,” I think Brian said), the user can navigate the path of a proposed power line by essentially watching a moving slideshow of images, or by clicking on hotlinks on an inset map. Best of all, according the Brian, the “SnapMap” product produced by a U.K. company called RSK Orbital was “relatively cheap, and turnaround time was a matter of weeks.” Although the system is not currently used by ATC for line inspections, Brian is hoping to convince their line maintenance folks to move in that direction in the future. 

Kent MacGlaughlin from Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) gave a nice presentation on HAZUS-MH, an ArcGIS add-on for natural hazards risk assessments. Kent talked in detail about the limitations of HAZUS, particularly when it comes to flood risk assessments. The limitations are ironic, especially since flooding is the most significant natural disaster occurring on a regular basis not just in Wisconsin, but nationwide as well. Kent also made an important clarification between flood risk assessment work happening at WEM, and the ongoing floodplain map modernization project managed by the WI Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with FEMA. WEM’s work serves only to make broad-scale assessments of risks for planning purposes, while DNR’s efforts are focused on updating the maps and data ultimately used for making legal floodplain determinations.

Larry Cutforth from the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) spoke about recent FSA GIS activity, particularly some changes with the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). In the past, CRP data were very closely guarded by USDA. In contrast with past policies, CRP GIS data are now more widely available, but requests are handled on a case-by-case basis.  Larry also mentioned that imagery from the 2-meter resolution 2006 Wisconsin NAIP flights should be available by the end of the calendar year.

There were five additional presentations beyond those detailed above. David Hart described his experiences as a Coastal GIS Specialist for the UW-Madison Sea Grant Program. Tami Castonia from the Brown County Land & Water Conversation Department talked about how GIS is used in her organization. Of particular interest, I thought, was her use of historic air photos for locating old water wells. Christina Pearson from Iowa County discussed the trials and tribulations of working with their local 911 provider, which was an eye opener to say the least. Andy Hess from Calumet County talked about his work with the “FoxComm” E-911 consortium in the Fox Valley, and Matt Winger updated the audience on Autodesk Map3D.

WLIP revenues down in fiscal year 2007

At the Land Information Officers Network (LION) meeting on Friday morning, Mike Friis from the Division of Intergovernmental Relations at the WI Department of Administration (DOA) gave an update on the WI Land Information Program (WLIP). WLIP year-to-date revenues, which are directly tied to deed recording fees, are at their lowest level in several years. Sluggish home sales and dramatically fewer mortgage refinances are to blame. 

Mike also outlined Fiscal Year 2006 (July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2006) WLIP expenditures. Of the approximate $3.1 million in revenues, $464,000 was lapsed to the State general fund, $19,000 was distributed to counties for training ($300 max per county, per year), $316,000 was awarded to base-budget eligible counties, $332,000 went to DOA administrative costs, and $2 million was distributed for comprehensive planning grants.

Board meets, bylaws tweaked 

After the close of the conference, the WLIA board met to discuss a host of issues. One of the main topics discussed was a proposed update to the organization’s bylaws, including some important changes to the elections process. There has been some controversy in the past where multiple candidates were nominated for president-elect, but only one name appeared on the final ballot. The new procedures should rectify that problem. Although not yet official until voted on by members, the Board intends to follow the spirit of the proposed changes for the upcoming election. 

In other action, the Board voted to send a letter of support to the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) for NSGIC’s “Imagery for the Nation” proposal. The Board also received a report from Executive Services Director Ann Barrett on future annual conference locations. Tentatively, 2008 is scheduled at the Grand Geneva Resort, while the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells is being considered for 2009.

Annual conference up next

The next WLIA meeting will be their annual conference at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton, March 7-9, 2007. According to conference chair Jason Grueneberg, presenters should be notified of the status of their abstracts by mid-December, and a preliminary agenda should be out around Christmas.