Unmet State and Federal Mapping Needs in Alaska
Alaska is the largest State in the Nation. It has an abundance of natural resources and is a key component of America's energy future. Alaska's vast public lands support a broad diversity of wildlife and the habitats upon which they rely. The public lands in Alaska are some of the most substantial in the northern hemisphere and are undeniably National treasures. These facts magnify the importance of effectively inventorying and managing these resources in order for Alaskans, and indeed all Americans to realize the true wealth that lies within Alaska.
Alaska is also ground zero for understanding nationally relevant science, infrastructure development, and international policy in a changing Arctic. Ice-free Arctic shipping lanes may reshape the global transport system, posing socio-economic and geopolitical concerns having national security and maritime implications. Indigenous citizens and communities face unparalleled challenges related to adaptation including sea rise, coastal erosion, and storm surge. Many villages are in peril and may be relocated. Understanding the effects of relocation and future water resources in a region of warming tundra is impaired by the lack of accurate elevation data.
Public safety; disaster mitigation, response and recovery; and search and rescue efforts require accurate elevation data. The data contribute to accurate tsunami inundation studies to establish safe evacuation routes, storm surge analyses, and the modeling of wildfire and fire line propagation.
A very recent case that highlights the need for readily available high quality elevation data is the recovery operation for an F-22 fighter aircraft crash near Denali, Alaska in November 2010. This incident occurred in a mountain valley with severe slopes and significant accumulations of snowfall. The safety of search and rescue crews was a concern. The recovery coordination team relied upon best-available elevation data to establish the initial mission parameters. The team then received high quality elevation data that had been processed on a rush order. The new data revealed that the slope analysis performed with the old data would have placed the rescuers in avalanche prone areas. The team changed the mission parameters for the safety of rescue/recovery crews.
Infrastructure, Resource & Economic Development
Accurate maps are foundational to infrastructure, utility and transportation development; oil and gas infrastructure, and mineral development; industrial planning including groundwater contamination mitigation and restoration; urban and agricultural land use development; project design and engineering; and telecommunications development.
Alaska is probably the only state where private developers have to acquire their own geospatial data on a project by project basis, to meet the needs of permitting. This adds cost to the project and is unattractive to investors. Furthermore, as has been the case in some instances, the geospatial data is called into question due to the fact it is not authoritative and is project specific.