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April 13, 2021

The USGS has announced the first round of recipients of the 2021 partnership awards  for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP).

The USGS has recommended 18 proposals in 12 states for award. These projects are expected to result in the accumulation of nearly 103,000 square miles of public domain lidar point cloud data and derived elevation products into the 3DEP data holdings.

As of this announcement, an additional 76,000 square miles of public domain 3DEP data will be added through FY21 Federal data acquisition partnerships. Further highlights from these projects include completing high-resolution elevation data coverage for the states of Ohio and Iowa, continued support for Minnesota’s lidar acquisition plan, acquisition for key western urban areas of Pima County, Arizona and King County, Washington; and acquisition of more than 11,000 square miles of data in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

“We are pleased to announce 3DEP partnerships for fiscal year 2021,” said Kevin Gallagher, USGS Associate Director for Core Science Systems.“ Given the pandemic impacts to state and local budgets, it is noteworthy that we continue to receive partnership proposals to acquire foundational 3DEP data for critical applications like assisting transportation planning and flood mapping in Arizona; assessing vulnerability of transportation infrastructure and assessing impacts of sea level rise on coastal wetlands in Massachusetts; understanding of surficial geology and soils mapping with direct applicability to groundwater recharge, flood hazards, and geologic hazards such as landslides and faults in California and Washington State.”

Current and accurate 3D elevation data are needed to support important applications, including flood-risk management, precision agriculture, infrastructure projects, natural resources management, and helping communities cope with natural hazards such as floods and landslides.

Federal funds to support this opportunity were provided by the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The USGS facilitates planning and acquisition of 3D elevation data for the broader community through the use of government contracts and partnership agreements.

The 2021 awards are the result of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for 3DEP, issued on September 24, 2020 ( reference #: DOIGFBO200046 and Funding Opportunity # G20AS00104). The 3DEP BAA presents an annual opportunity for collaboration between the USGS and other federal, state, local, and non-profit agencies to leverage the expertise and capacity of private sector mapping firms that acquire high-quality, three-dimensional mapping data of the United States.

The goal of 3DEP is to complete acquisition of nationwide lidar (IfSAR in AK) by 2023 to provide the first-ever national baseline of consistent high-resolution elevation collected in a timeframe of less than a decade. 3DEP is backed by a comprehensive study which conservatively estimates that elevation data provides new benefits of $690 million/year with the potential to generate $13 billion/year in new benefits through applications that span the economy.

Lidar, short for light detection and ranging, is collected from aircraft by using sensors that detect the reflections of a pulsed laser beam. The reflections are recorded as millions of individual points, collectively called a “point cloud,” that represent the three-dimensional (3D) positions of objects on the surface of the Earth. Similarly, IfSAR, short for interferometric synthetic aperture radar, is used to collect data over Alaska due to the frequent cloud cover, rugged terrain, and remote locations.

More information about 3DEP, including updates on current and future 3DEP partnership opportunities, is available at

Map depicts the status of BAA awards and Lidar Partnerships to date.
Map depicts the status of BAA awards and Lidar Partnerships to date. Project selection is ongoing and updates will be posted to the 3DEP website. (Public domain.)


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