About Thurston Geodata Center
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Purpose and Responsibilities:The Purpose of the Thurston GeoData Center is to provide County staff with accurate spatial geographic information and provide access and support in utilizing this information in their daily operations. Secondarily, TGC provides support and services to Federal, State, and local agencies, private business and the general public.
Responsibilities of the Thurston GeoData Center include: data capture, maintenance and quality assurance/quality control; data analysis, database and system administration; programming support; map production; and provide training.
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A History of Thurston Geodata Center:Within Thurston County an effort to develop a regional geographic information and mapping system began in 1984. To assess the need and define requirements, a joint feasibility study was initiated by Thurston County and the cities of, Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater. As a result of that study, Thurston Geographic Information Facility (TGIF) was created in 1985/6. The facility was created through an Interlocal Agreement that included Thurston County, Lacey, Olympia and Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC). Under the establishing Interlocal Agreement, TGIF was managed, part time, by the Thurston County Chief Surveyor, who reported to a Steering Committee comprising of designated representatives of each participating organization. Steering Committee (SC) members selected two appropriate staff members, from their organizations to serve on a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). The TAC members worked with the managers to develop TGIF policies and procedures, work programs, and yearly budgets. The initial work program of the facility was the development of a county wide, parcel map which led to a funding structure based upon the number of parcels each organization administered. As a result, TGIF funding was 72.5% by Thurston County, 16.03% by Olympia, 8.77% by Lacey, and 2.7% by TRPC.
Using this administrative and funding approach TGIF created approximately 50 layers of spatial data related to Thurston County. Layers included, but were not limited to, political boundaries (city limits, county, commissioner districts, voter, fire, and school districts), storm water utility rate districts, zoning, roads and natural resources (rivers and lakes, soils, wetlands, floodplains and shoreline management areas). In addition to creating data layers, TGIF provided project support to the founding organizations and to other programs on a special project basis.
By 1994, the utility of geographic analysis was becoming recognized within Thurston County, as was the need for a full-time manager. A full-time manager was hired in March 94 to direct the growth and development of the TGIF program. The program work plan shifted from data creation to providing services, training, and access to program information. In addition, the approach to funding the program was changed. No longer did the funding organizations pay in to the program based on a percentage according to the number of parcels they administered, they paid an hourly rate for services provided directly to them. Presently, Thurston County provides funding for base level operations including data and system maintenance and map production support for county programs. The remainder of the program's funding comes from direct contract services provided to clients including Lacey, Olympia, Thurston Regional Planning Council, Federal, State, and Local agencies, private business and organizations, the general public, and from data and map sales. Following changes in the work plan, funding structure, and program direction, TGIF changed its organizational name to the Thurston GeoData Center (TGC).
What is TGC About Today?Presently, TGC maintains over 120 different layers of geographic information about Thurston County and provides service and support to over 100 government and private organizations and the general public. Thurston Geodata Center also provides training and support to an additional 110 ArcGIS and ArcView users throughout the county.
Ninety percent of all data the county collects and maintains has a spatial component or is logically linked to a location. This includes financial data, permit information, road construction and maintenance information, along with all the natural resource data.
Geographic information that TGC maintains about Thurston county includes, but is not limited to: Wetlands, Water Bodies, Habitat types, Floodplains, School Districts, Roads, Parcels, Soils, Steep Slopes, Watershed Basins, Landfills, Medic Zones, Sensitive Areas, City Limits, Fire Districts and Voter Precincts.
Data maintenance and management is only one facet of Geodata’s role in Thurston County. Analysis of datasets critical to county policy and decision-making is another role which staff fulfills on a daily basis. Critical Areas Ordinances, storm water management boundaries and environmental health site impacts are an example of several projects TGC staff has actively been working on for county departments.
Thurston Geodata Center is also utilizing GPS (Global Positioning Systems) for data capture. This method of data acquisition insures a more accurate and consistent technology, signals received from satellites, is applied to field data gathering than traditional means. Some examples of GPS usage in the county include the mapping of noxious weeds, site contamination of heavy metals, and significant natural resources.
Web site development has been a focal point for Geodata over the past several years. Continued enhancement of the user interface, as well as increasing data content, have been two areas in which Geodata staff continue to concentrate on.
Other areas of interest of which staff are working on include generating topographically detailed terrain datasets utilizing LiDAR-derived data. LiDAR is Light Detection and Ranging and is the optical analog to RADAR. This dataset was captured in 2001 by a USGS grant and provides Puget Sound counties, including Thurston, with highly accurate elevation data. LiDAR data can be used for hydrologic modeling, vegetation and forest canopy studies, and other areas in which an accurate elevation determination is necessary.
Geodata also is the lead entity in the acquisition of aerial photography for Thurston County. With archival photos in digital form dating back to the early 1990’s to current photography (2003 to date), TGC maintains a vast collection of photography in varying resolutions for public and county use. The program of updating photography is currently on a three year rotational basis with plans to provide updates every other year.