Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GIS Town Hall Meeting - Roanoke Thursday

Please join the 31 people registered for the third GIS town hall meeting in Roanoke on October 1st. Walks-in are welcomed. The meeting will be held from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, Claude Moore Education Auditorium (108 N Jefferson St, Roanoke, VA). To date 147 people have responded to the online survey. The Town Hall Meeting schedule can be found here. Take the online survey if you haven't already. VGIN wants your input!

Monday, September 28, 2009

When Is a Boundary Really a Boundary?

Controversy is brewing between Highland County, Virginia and Pocahontas County, West Virginia over their common boundary. The planned Highland County Wind Farm has sparked debates over nearby historic resources and environmental impact. In addition, an issue of interest to geographers is the location of the shared boundary. Where is the “official” state boundary between West Virginia and Virginia? Turns out this is not such an easy question to answer and highlights some of the difficulties Virginia will face when tasked with improving the accuracy of geospatial boundary data.

The West Virginia perspective – state boundary.
West Virginia, uniquely among the 50 states, has declared in Code that its state boundary is that which is represented on the US Geological Survey quadrangle maps (See Section 2.2.3 of USGS Quad Specs and West Virginia Code ).

The Virginia Perspective – state boundary.
References to the Virginia boundary with West Virginia in the Code of Virginia are generally absent, other than a reference to the WV – VA boundary between Loudoun County, VA and Jefferson County, WV. Details are provided for the boundaries with North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Where does this leave the Virginia definition of the state boundary for the Virginia border with West Virginia? Thanks to Mike Zmuda, State Surveyor at VDOT, I can point to the following historical information. It seems to boil down to the County Boundary definition at the time of the formation of the state of West Virginia. More specific information about the Virginia counties that became part of West Virginia can be found at the Proceedings of the Second Session of the Second Wheeling Convention, August 20, 1861.

So where is the county boundary between Highland County, Virginia and Pocahontas County, WV? The following was excerpted from a letter that the surveyor Jeffrey Hiner, who was hired by the Highland New Wind Development company, wrote to describe his survey work in support of the project:

Highland County was formed in 1847 from Bath and Pendleton Counties. The survey of Highland County is recorded in Surveyors Record Book 1 page 1 in the Courthouse at Monterey…. The northwestern corner of Highland County is described as “eight hemlocks and three small beeches and a small maple on the top of Alleghany Mountain in the Pocahontas County Line.” The line then runs southward “along the main top of said mountain with said county line to the plum orchard,” where the surveyors “marked one plum tree on the top of said mountain.” …
…An excerpt of the 1821 Acts of the General Assembly obtained from the book History of Pocahontas County West Virginia states the Pocahontas County Line ran “a straight line to the top of the Allegheny Mountain opposite the head of the east fork of Greenbrier River; thence with the top of said mountain to the Pendleton line, and thence with the top of said mountain to the beginning.”

The ridgeline of Allegheny Mountain is apparently a factor of the boundary definition. From a GIS data perspective, a couple of things come to mind when defining the ridgeline:
  • If USGS quads are used to define the ridgeline, the National Map Accuracy Standards for USGS quads should be considered. A horizontal distance of plus or minus 40 feet for “well defined points” is the NMAS value for 1:24,000 scale USGS quads. Positional errors for features can be greater than 40 feet when located away from “well defined points”.
  • How should the West Virginia reference to USGS topographic quadrangle maps be used for more precise boundary delineations? Is the authoritative source the cartographic representation, or the terrain feature (the ridgeline) which it appears to represent?
  • Elevation data such as Lidar and/or Digital Terrain Models could prove very useful if available.
Of course, Virginia law states that the determination of property lines and boundaries for legal purposes are the domain of Licensed Land Surveyors; otherwise, they are to be used for general information (§ 54.1-404 or 54.1-406 ).

Thursday, September 24, 2009 - Good Idea or Utopian Ideal?

Christopher Tucker put forth this clear and simple vision in Federal Computer Week yesterday:
From the lowliest citizen to the president of the United States, we should all be empowered to fire up an application I will call At that portal, you could draw a bounding box on a map, declare a slice of time and instantaneously discover everything our government knows about that place. And we should be able to marshal that data instantaneously to support our needs.
To me this encapsulates all the recent talk of Gov2.0, open standards, cloud computing, common platforms, and GIS one stop-shopping.  This vision is simple and idealistic. We welcome you comments on whether this should or should not be a proper vision, what obstacles are in its way, or what factors you think make it impossible. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2009 Virginia GIS Conference

The first full day of the 2009 Virginia GIS Conference was completed today. This year marks a first in conference collaboration between the VAPDC and VAMLIS organizations, representing the conference theme of "A New Spirit of Collaboration". The Plenary Session started with opening remarks by conference co-chairs Matt Miller (VAPDC) and Russell Minich (VAMLIS), followed by a humorous and encouraging invitation to "spend money in Henrico" by Mr. Virgil Hazlet, the County Manager of host county Henrico. There was the usual excellent diversity of topics represented by federal/state/local government, private sector and non-profit presenters, enjoyed by approximately 325 atttendees.

The conference continues through lunchtime on Wednesday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Over Sixty Stakeholders Attend Richmond GIS Town Hall Meeting

Over Sixty Stakeholders Attend Richmond GIS Town Hall Meeting

GIS Stakeholders from all sectors of government, academia and the private sector attended the second of 5 Town Hall Meetings for GIS Strategic Planning in Virginia. The meeting was held Friday afternoon at the VITA facility in Chester. Lively dialog and constructive discussions were the rule of the day.

The next Town Hall meeting will be held in Roanoke on October 1 from 12 to 4 PM at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, Claude Moore Education Auditorium, 108 N Jefferson St, Roanoke, VA 24016. Click here for directions.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

30 Stakeholders Attend First GIS Strategic Plan Town Hall

The first of four town hall meetings hosted by VGIN to garner input on a Five-Year GIS Strategic Plan was held this Wednesday in Culpeper. And according to participants' post-evaluations it was “… an effective use of time". Most felt they could speak freely and many good ideas were offered by those in attendance. With these initial meetings we hope to achieve the following outcomes:  

  • A Clear Understanding of the Current State of GIS in the Commonwealth
  • A Vision for the GIS Community
  • Understanding How VGIN Can Help Us Get There
  • An Understanding of Next Steps in the Development of VGIN’s Strategic Plan
The Town Hall Meeting schedule can be found here. And please take the online survey if you haven't already.

Monday, September 14, 2009

GIS Strategic Planning - Town Hall Meetings

VGIN was established by the General Assembly in 1997. After 12 years, now is a good time to take a look at how far GIS has come in Virginia, and more importantly, where do we want to it go into the future. So VGIN, with the help of the Touchstone Consulting Group, is starting a stakeholder driven planning effort to develop a Five Year GIS Strategic Plan for Virginia. Already a number of interviews have been conducted with key stakeholders and an online survey has been sent out. The next step is a series of Town Hall meetings. At these meetings we will share the results to date and develop a shared consensus on our future direction  The Town Hall Meeting schedule can be found here. And please take the online survey if you haven't already.

Welcome to GISVirginia

Welcome to GISVirginia, a blog for GIS users and professionals working in Virginia. In this blog we will cover GIS topics specific to Virginia. This blog is hosted by the staff of VGIN, the Virginia Geographic Information Network, but we hope that it will prove informative to the entire Virginia GIS community. It will not be limited to VGIN programs or services. We encourage your comments and contributions. Comments will be moderated to avoid spam but we do not intend to limit legitimate discussion.