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Utah Mapping Partnership Will Increase Government Efficiency, Transparency

By Amanda Smith

State agencies compile huge amounts of data. What if we could share that data with other agencies so we could do our work more efficiently? What if this combined information could make it easier for businesses to identify risks for development projects? What if we could view this information as layers on a map so we could make better, quicker decisions about issues affecting our agency and our state? Under the Utah Mapping and Information Partnership (UMIP), we will be able to do all this and more.

Too often, government data are housed in formats or “silos” that make it difficult to access and use. Information about geographical features, land ownership, transportation corridors, water resources, location of oil and gas wells, and jurisdictional boundaries is generally located in separate offices. UMIP, which was spearheaded by a partnership of 15 state and local agencies, will establish a means for state, regional, and local governments to share and combine quantitative and qualitative data into a map-based format.

Most of the data sharing will leverage Geographic Information System (GIS)  technology to gather and display spatial information. Information will be layered in an integrated map-based system that will give users the ability to overlay land-use and program data to facilitate regulatory, planning, management, and development decisions.

A state and local government license for border-to-border high-resolution aerial imagery was just acquired by the Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) with funding support from UMIP partner organizations. This new imagery will have 43 times greater resolution than is currently available to state mapping applications and will match the visual quality of private applications like Google Earth.

DEQ has already seen the benefits from sharing map-based information with the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining (DOGM). We obtained well data from DOGM that helped us streamline our permitting and compliance activities in the Uinta Basin. This data allowed us to:

  • identify over 13,000 producing and shut-in oil and gas wells
  • map the location of these wells
  • identify the jurisdiction (tribal lands, EPA, or state) for the wells

2march2015-uintabasin-oilwell

We were able to locate nearly 1,000 oil and gas wells in the Basin with emissions levels that were high enough to require an operating permit. Data from DOGM also helped us determine which companies were operating these wells so we could contact them. We are currently working with these operators to help them obtain the appropriate air quality permits. Without this information, locating wells and contacting well operators would have been extremely inefficient and time-consuming.

The UMIP initiative will provide significant advantages to government, business, and the public:

  • Staff in the field will be able to stream map layers onto mobile devices and upload field data to maps using mobile-based data-collection apps.
  • Integrated map data will be available to the public, and businesses will be able to use this information to identify risks that might impede or stall economic development projects. Access to this kind of information will decrease the costs of doing business in Utah and increase business investment in the state.
  • Government programs that rely on location-based data will be able to access large quantities of information and select only the data they need, saving them time and money.

We are pleased to have played a significant role in the formation of this partnership and look forward to collaborating with our fellow state and local governments in this important initiative.

Visit the State of Utah’s new Open Data portal! The portal contains information about jobs, public safety, business, education, health, and licensing, to name a few. Tutorials show you how to use the data in the portal to create a point map or bar chart and how to find and sort datasets. Check out UPLAN to see how the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) interactive mapping platform helps the agency visualize infrastructure and performance data to improve transportation planning and analysis. DEQ, along with our UMIP partners, looks forward to sharing our data mapping with you soon!

2march2015_amandaI am the Executive Director of DEQ, where I feel honored to work with so many bright and dedicated people. Over the past 23 years, my career has been focused primarily on natural resource and environmental policy and law. When not at work, I enjoy being outside on one of Utah’s beautiful ski, bike or running trails with my family and dog.