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Acquisition and Publication of 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) Lidar for Hurricanes and Wildfires

High-resolution elevation data are critical for hazard mitigation policies, redevelopment planning, and emergency preparedness and disaster response.

Hurricanes and Wildfires lidar acquisition: tasks and benefits, 2018 and 2019

Applications for FY18 and FY19 supplemental lidar data

Using FY18 and FY19 supplemental funds, the USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) acquired high-resolution airborne lidar for FEMA-declared disaster regions in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, and California. The data were acquired to serve post-Hurricane and post-wildfire recovery and other needs, including assessing landscape change and vulnerability; and designing restoration, redevelopment, and protection projects.  The data have been or will be published on The National Map.  

Supplemental lidar data for California are being used by State, Federal, and other agencies for a broad range of wildland fire applications including:

Lidar acquisition blocks for Northern California
Lidar acquisition blocks for Northern California
  • Identifying safe evacuation routes if precipitation events exceed thresholds for debris flows through populated areas for the Montecito Fire Protection District (CA) and FEMA.    
  • Identifying locations of dead trees and standing biomass to determine where to safely deploy ground crews before the next fire season by Butte County (CA). 
  • Vegetation safety planning and to identify where heavy biomass/dead trees are in proximity of electrical infrastructure for the Trinity Public Utility district power line network mapping by the Watershed Resource Center in California.
  • Evaluation of post-fire debris flows and other geologic and geomorphic hazards resulting from the fires by Watershed Emergency Response Teams (California Geological Survey and cooperators). 
  • Post-fire timber salvage permitting processes, road reconstruction and hazard mitigation efforts by the California Geological Survey, CalFire, the CA State Resources Control Board, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  
  • Evaluation of vegetation management plans for submission under the California Environmental Quality Act as well as the assessment of geologic and geomorphic hazards (landslides, debris flows, and erosion) and their post-fire mitigation by an (interagency team comprised of CalFire, California Geological Survey, the California Water Board, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  
  • Vegetation management including utility corridor safety, species and habitat mapping, and assessments of natural and human resources at risk to flood and geologic hazards by California Department of Conservation partners.  
  • Biomass and fire fuels estimations for “3D Forests” project by Sonoma State University researchers.  
  • Floodplain analysis to reduce flood risk to residents and infrastructure and levee analysis to produce more accurate flood hazard information that will be used to rebuild communities and update Flood Insurance Rate Maps by FEMA Region IX.
  • Hydrologic and hydraulic modelling as part of a mine remediation projects in Shasta County by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.  

Supplemental lidar data are being used by State, Federal, and other agencies for a broad range of hurricane-related applications including:

3D plot that looks like topography
Landslide susceptibility map
  • Mapping of karst hazards (sinkholes) and assessing coastal hazards in Puerto Rico.
  • Development of landslides hazards maps in the mountainous central region of Puerto Rico to increase hurricane preparedness and predict vulnerability to future hurricane-related hazards.
  • Construction planning to restore the power grid following major damage from Hurricane Maria by the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.
  • Coastal storm flooding and sediment-transport modeling using newly developed regional-scale integrated 1-meter topobathymetric digital elevation models (TBDEMs) as part of the Coastal National Elevation Database. The TBDEMs are being used to make detailed predictions of coastal flooding and erosion caused by storms within Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) and to support hurricane impact forecasting by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program.  
  • Analysis of increased wildfire fuel loads caused by trees blown down by Hurricane-force winds in Florida. Developing coastal vulnerability assessments that are used to connect stakeholders in Puerto Rico with coastal hazards information.
  • Managing beach erosion and mitigating storm surge-related flooding in by the State of Florida in determining where beaches may need to be repaired.
  • Mitigating sinkhole hazards, mapping flood inundation, and infrastructure planning by the Florida Chief Science Officer and stakeholders to address statewide concerns.   

Benefits for the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP)  

Supplemental funding and the large amount of partnership funding that USGS was able to leverage contributed approximately 195,000 sq miles of lidar data (an area representing approximately 5.4% of the Nation). The supplemental lidar data resulted in new 3DEP data coverage for some areas or provided repeat coverage in areas with existing lidar data for use in change detection analyses.  3DEP lidar data are foundational for a broad range of other applications including flood risk management, infrastructure construction, resource management, conservation, energy development, agriculture, and a host of other nationally significant applications. The National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA; Dewberry 2012) documented more than 600 business uses of elevation data across 34 federal agencies, all 50 states, selected local government and tribal offices, and private and nonprofit organizations. 3DEP is designed based on the NEEA to provide a 5:1 return on investment and to conservatively provide new benefits of \$690 million/year with the potential to generate \$13 billion/year in new benefits through applications that span the economy.


Return to 2018 Supplemental Appropriations Activities.

Return to 2019 Supplemental Appropriations Activities.


Additional Resources:

3DEP Role in Disaster Preparation, Mitigation and Recovery