Kodiak may get upgraded, 3D maps

Series of High Resolution Orthoimagery (2008, 2010, and 2012) of the Hoover Dam Bypass
(Public domain)

Maps of Kodiak may be getting an upgrade this year. The Kodiak Island Borough is considering a multi–year contract with an aerial imaging company that promises to deliver enhanced, 3D images of the entire Kodiak archipelago.

The tool is a digital mapping process called orthoimagery. An orthoimage is a composite picture of aerial photographs with the geometric qualities of a map. It’s like a digital mosaic, created from several photographs and mathematical equations that adjust the pictures for geographical and structural features, such as terrain and elevation.

The borough has been using aerial imagery for over ten years. Currently, though, the borough’s mapping capabilities only offer eagle-eye views, that is, the maps only provide pictures of the tops of land and structures. Plus, the aerial images the borough has are outdated.

Orthoimagery will help the borough solve both of those problems, as it is a process that allows someone to see all sides of a 3D image, providing an updated view of the entire archipelago and any structures.

Aerial imagery is important to the borough primarily for assessment and development purposes.

Borough Manager Michael Powers: “While most people think of imagery as being used for community development for the various maps that are created there or for assessing for tracking a building in development, it actually forms the backbone of our geographic information system, and gets considerable use by the public, business, and borough staff.”

Seema Garoutte, the Kodiak Island Borough Assessor, discusses the benefits of orthoimagery to assessing property.

“3D imagery will allow us to know if structures are more than one level, allow us to differentiate between types of structures, residential, sheds, commercial, also allow us to see fence, and distinguish between what is concrete and what is a structure. When you are looking at something from just the top of it, it’s hard to know if that’s a roof, a flat roof, what you are really looking at. And that 3D imagery will allow us to rotate it so that we could see, oh look, it’s a 3 level structure instead of just looking at it from the top and only assessing for one.”

Sample of an orthomosaic image for assessing (Eagleview)

In the past, assessors would have to travel to remote areas to inspect structures. The 3D images provided by orthoimagery, borough staff believes, will save the borough money since they will no longer need to make those trips.

Garoutte also believe that the interface will help communication with the public about assessing and development.

“Having GIS online also allows us to walk through the steps with property owners so that they can see what we are talking about also, alleviating most miscommunication errors because we are both looking at the same image.”

Because the data provided by aerial imaging is used by so many people and departments, it is some of the most requested information from the borough, and is one of the most accessed pages on the borough website.

Borough Manager Michael Powers: “The number one location for website traffic is of course our home page, followed by additional information, followed by the map system. So it is the third most commonly used site on our entire borough website. It surpasses all of the information about agenda items, assembly members, contact information, and all of the departments. It nearly eclipses all of those combined compared to the maps in our use. So it is heavily used.”

A multi-year contract like this is unique for the borough to consider. Typically, the borough issues year-to-year contracts, but with the development of new technology, the borough is now able to contract with a company to take them through the entire traditional 6-year assessment cycle.

Erin Welty, Director of Community Development: “The only new thing about this request is the length of the contract, which ultimately saves the borough money because of the inflation rate. We’re locking in numbers now, at today’s costs.”

The company using orthoimagery that is seeking a contract with the borough is Eagleview, an aerial imaging company based in New York but operating in Alaska. According to their proposal, they have served more than 2,000 government customers since 2001, and specialize in capturing imagery in challenging climate and terrain conditions.

The Assembly will vote on Eagleview’s aerial imaging contract at this Thursday’s regular meeting, which you can hear on KMXT.

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