GeoCarta Has Moved

Aug 31, 2005

S. Korean Voice Concerns Over Google Earth

Add South Korea to the list of foreign governments expressing concerns about Google Earth, the new online mapping program from Google. A story in the International Herald Tribune, quotes presidential spokesman Kim Man Soo, as saying that Seoul plans to raise its concerns about the service with the United States in the next few days. Among their concerns are the fact that the Blue House, the presidential palace, as well as images of South Korean military bases are clearly visible on the service. Technically, the country is still at war with its neighbor to the north. North Korea has raised concerns worldwide by pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.

Last week I posted about legislators in The Netherlands raising similar concerns.

Aug 30, 2005

Mapping The Risk Of Flooding

With images of homes in the south under water, thoughts turn to flood mapping. Flood insurance in the U.S. is administered through the National Flood Insurance Program, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In order to assess the risk of flooding for a particular piece of property, FEMA prepares Flood Insurance Rate Maps. These maps depict a shaded area which it is estimated flood waters will rise to. These maps vary greatly in precision and detail. FEMA is currently attempting to modernize its flood maps, replacing its old paper maps with web-based maps.

One issue that arises is that not everyone is happy to have new, more modern maps. The new maps can stir up controversy when they depict property in the 100 year flood plain that had previously not been depicted in the flood plain. Residents of New Hampshire have complained about what they consider the needless expense of buying flood insurance when they previously have done without. Federal law requires the lienholder of real property to require the property owner to obtain flood insurance if the property lies in the flood plain. Lenders take advantage of the new, modern maps, sending out letters to their mortgagees, instructing them that they must obtain flood insurance. Of course, new, more accurate maps can also determine that property that was previously believed susceptible to flooding is not. Such is the case in North Platte Nebraska, where modern mapping has removed a large section of the city from the 100 year flood plain, saving property owners money.

For those that are curious as to whether their homes are in the flood plain or not, FEMA offers scanned versions of their existing paper maps at their Flood Map Store. However, you do not have to purchase the entire map. There is an option to view the map, from which you can print a "Firmette", essentially a small section of the flood map.

Aug 29, 2005

Katrina May Put NOAA's Subsidence Theory To The Test

Back in June, I had a post about a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the effect of subsidence on the gulf coast. The report stated that much of the Gulf of Mexico is sinking much faster than was previously believed. The NOAA report states that the Louisiana coast may be sinking by at least 5 feet every century. If true, this may mean that the assumptions made by emergency planners in the path of Huricane Katrina may be at variance with the reality of what will happen.

For some links to satellite and other maps of the hurricane, visit The Map Room.

09/01/05: The Map Room has the lateset images of Katrina's devastation

Aug 28, 2005

Yes, It's The Drafter's Fault

More on the mapping mistake that seems to have the Aussies up in arms:

Forestry Tasmania has extended a habitat for threatened parrots, to increase protection of the birds, after part of their habitat was mistakenly logged.

The company felled 17 trees in the reserve for swift parrots, next to its logging coupe in the Weilangta State Forest.

Forestry Tasmania general manager Kim Creek says the error was caused by incorrect boundary markings on a map.

He says the error has not damaged the habitat...

Greens Senator Bob Brown says Forestry Tasmania has broken its own rules, and is calling for management to pay with their jobs.

The controversy illustrates that no matter how technologically advanced and automated mapping becomes, there will always be a need for human oversight and common sense. While the article doesn't spell out exactly what the mistake was, it may have been something as simple as using a solid line where a dashed line should have been. Legends, notes, clearly defined abbreviations, the "nuts and bolts" of mapmaking, though sometimes overlooked, will always be important

Complete article

Aug 27, 2005

It's The Drafter's Fault

Forestry Tasmania has admitted it accidentally logged an area of the Weilangta State Forest which was reserved as a habitat for a threatened species of parrot.

The company says a mapping error was to blame.

Greens Senator Bob Brown says it is a shameful piece of illegal logging and claims the error has further eroded the habitat of the rare and endangered swift parrot.

Aug 26, 2005

Taking A Byte Out Of Crime

We are all familiar with using maps for getting from Point A to Point B, or determining the size and shape of land features and property. But a story from Oregon shows how maps are being used to help solve, "real-world" problems such as crime. Oregon State University and U.S. Forest Service researchers are using crime reports, plotted on maps to research crime in the northwest's public forests, including the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Eventually the researchers hope to assist in directing increased law towards areas of high crime.

While this project is aimed at forests in the northwest, it is appicable to urban areas as well. Criminals are creatures of habit. Linking crime reports to maps via Geographic Information Systems technology can allow law enforcement to see where crimes are taking place as well as when. Armed with this knowledge, they can increase patrols in these crime-prone areas.

Complete article from Albany Democrat-Herald

Aug 25, 2005

Fussing Over Water In Colorado

The Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the owners of the Topaz Mountain Ranch in Colorado to remove a damn they constructed on Tarryall Creek, claiming it harmed fish habitat. The creek flows into the Pike National Forest. The ranch owners built the dam in June. The damn, which cut off public access to the creek, diverted the water onto the privately owned ranch property. The Corps originally issued the ranch a permit to construct the damn back in January, which the ranch said would improve habitat on their property. However, the Colorado Department of Wildlife, during a review of the plans back in the spring, became concerned that the plans would harm fish habitat and dry up wetlands. Thereafter, The Corps suspended approval of the plans for the dam, which the owners built anyway. The Corps has given the ranch owners until September 1 to remove the damn and return the creek to its previous condition.

This issue highlights one of the little known facts of property law. A property owner may not own or have absolute right to the rivers and creeks that flow through his property. When this country was settled, streams and rivers were seen as avenues of commerce. In many instances, some rights, to either the water or navigation, were retained by the government, in trust for the people.

Complete Article From Denver Post

Aug 23, 2005

Eminent Domain Bill Lies In The Path Of The Trans-Texas Corridor

A section of Senate Bill 7 which was passed by the legislature last week may have a big impact on the Texas Department of transportation (TxDOT) plans for the Trans-Texas Corridor. The bill restricts governmental bodies from using their power of eminent domain to acquire property for the benefit a private party or to create economic development.

The Trans-Texas Corridor is visualized as a network of roads, railway and utility infrastructure criss-crossing the state. The system of roads is designed to accommodate growing trade and traffic on the state's interstate system. TxDot has been negotiating a deal with Cintra-Zachry for the company to build the corridor at its own expense in exchange for a 50-year lease to operate the corridor as a tollway. In addition to tolls, the original plan would allow Cintra-Zachry to develop and build restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and convenience stores along the corridor's route. Nothing in the bill prohibits the developer from building such facilities. However, under the new law, the state could not use it's eminent domain powers to cease private land for Cintra-Zachry to construct such facilities. The only way eminent domain powers could be used for such private enterprises would be with approval of the County Commissioner's Court that they would be located in.

The Trans-Texas Corridor has been a hotly debated topic, especially in central Texas. Opponents contend the system of roads and ancillary facilities is not economically feasible and would unnecessarily harm the environment. So contentious is the issue that last week when rumors surfaced that TxDOT had surveyors out mapping the proposed route the state agency was forced to issued a statement denying it.

Aug 22, 2005

Online Maps Under Fire In The Netherlands

Two members of the Dutch parliament have raised questions about Google Earth, the free mapping program from Google, suggesting it may aid would-be terrorists plot their attacks.

The service uses overlapping satellite photos from both commercial and public sources linked together to provide the user the ability to seamlessly navigate around the globe. However, since the photogrammetry is from a variety of sources, the details visible vary greatly across the globe.

The Dutch legislators expressed fears that terrorists could use the service to study government buildings or nuclear reactors. This issue raises the inherent conflict between advanced technology and the need to keep public facilities secure. Many municipalities used to have maps of their water and sewer lines available online to the public. After 9/11, many removed them from public view.

Complete Article

Aug 19, 2005

The Sound Of silence

We're all familiar with mapping streets, utilities, property, topographic features, and zoning categories . But mapmakers in England are taking on the task of mapping a different feature: Noise. Cartographers are charting decibel levels along major roads in 20 English towns and cities as part of the Government program to tackle noise pollution.

Local Environmental Quality Minister, Ben Bradshaw explains, "By creating noise maps we can get a better understanding of the overall situation and target our efforts to tackle unwanted noise where it is really needed. By creating more of these maps we can help Government, local authorities, planners and the public better understand noise levels and work more efficiently to reduce the number of people who are exposed to high levels of noise.

New maps to pin sound down in British cities

Aug 18, 2005

Eminent Domain - Remembered

The eminent domain bill comes far too late for some residents of Hurst, Texas. Back in 1995, the city used its power of eminent domain to condemn their homes to make way for an expansion of Northeast Mall. The property seizure took place long before the use of governmental power to benefit private property owners had become such a hot issue. In one instance, a woman dying of cancer was forced from her home, which was needed for a parking lot for the new Nordstoms. However, CNN is reportedly planning to revisit the day Hurst city leaders evicted their citizen's from their own homes. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the cable news channel is planning a story on the issue.

Aug 17, 2005

Eminent Domain Bill Passes Texas Legislature

Senate Bill 7, a bill that would limit the government's ability to take property from private owners through eminent domain has been passed by the Texas legislature and expected to be signed by Governor Rick Perry.

The bill restricts local governments from using their eminent domain powers to take privately owned property so they can turn it over to retail, industrial or residential developers. It was passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo v. New London decision which greatly expanded government’s power to take private property. Texas is the 3rd state since that decision to pass legislation that would prevent local governments from using eminent domain for tax boosting enterprises. Similar legislation has been announced or filed in at least 31 states.

Aug 16, 2005

Incentive or Extortion?

Today’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an article on a new development, The Sanctuary, in Flower Mound. The project, which consists of 89 homes by Toll Brothers, priced from $400,000, will be built on lots of about 1/3 f an acre. The land was originally zoned for 1 acre lots. The city agreed to the smaller lots in exchange for the developer agreeing to set aside 45 acres of the 98 acre project as open space. The open space will be managed by a land trust. In addition to the smaller lots, the city also waived some taxes and fees worth approximately $97,000.

While the article depicts the process of one where the city provided incentives for the development, it doesn't sound that way to me. This is an example of a city zoning property so restrictively that no economically feasible use can be made of the property. In order to develop the land, the property owner must accede to city demands for “open space”. Yet consider for a moment what would happen if the entire city were developed according to these "smart growth" regulations. Grocery stores, restaurants, medical offices, specialty shops, all look for one thing in deciding where to locate: rooftops. Such restrictive uses, spread across a large span of the city, would result in a community with such a low population density that it would be difficult for any of the city services most people take for granted, to locate anywhere near these types of neighborhoods.

Street Level Maps Availible provides street-level photographs of selected cities geo-referenced to Mapquest. Unlike other services satellite images such as Google Maps and Microsoft, the service allows you to pan down selected streets and see street-level photos on either side.

Aug 13, 2005

Old & New Mapping Technologies Combined To Rediscover Giant Waterfall

A couple years ago, Russ Weatherbee, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service was cleaning out a cabinet of old maps when he stumbled across one from the 1960s marked with a note reading "Whiskeytown falls" near Crystal Creek.

His curiosity aroused, he turned to global imaging system maps on his computer where he saw a stretch in the creek that dropped in altitude quickly with a sliver of white leading through it. The combination of old and new maps led park officials to the nearly 400-foot waterfall in a remote corner of the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, in northern California.

Complete article from Associated Press.

Aug 12, 2005

Losing Your Land - Part II

The California case below illustrates how you can lose the exclusive use of your land through a prescriptive easement. In a similar manner you can actually lose ownership of some or all of your land through adverse possesion. Adverse possession is where a person can acquire title to land through occupying it for a time period proscribed by state law. Generally this means fencing it off and using it as your own.

However, a recent situation in Kentucky is a good reminder that there is one land owner adverse possession does not run against; the government.

The Army has informed several landowners abutting Fort Knox that 83 acres of government land was mistakenly included in their subdivision back in the 1970s. Now the Army wants its land back.

A Pentagon spokeswoman says the Army might decide to compensate occupants of the land, but so far no decision has been made. It's also not even clear that the Army can use tax dollars to pay for land it already owns.

Bird's Eye Views of Texas

The Amon Carter Musuem in Fort Worth has posted numerous "Bird's-Eye View" maps of Texas cities online. The fascinating maps, which were mainly produced in the mid to late 1800's provided an aerial view of Texas' growing cities, before photogrammetry was ever used.

The maps will be on display at the musuem in an exhibit titled, "Patterns of Progress: Bird’s-Eye Views of Texas" February 18–May 28, 2006.

Aug 11, 2005

Losing Your Land

A recent case from California provides a well timed reminder of how a property owner can use the exclusive use of his land.

Recreationists claim that they’ve been using a dirt road across private property to access public lands on Tahoe Mountain for decades.

Monica Kohs, who bought the back in December for $1.3 million, recently put up “No trespassing” signs seeking to deny the public access to the road.

However, it may be that the public has acquired the right to continue using the road through the doctrine of a prescriptive easement. Under California Law, a Prescriptive Easement is established by "obvious, open, notorious and continuous use for more than five years," according to court papers for a California case decided in 1960, Sufficool et al v. Duncan et al. While the exact amount of time required and specific circumstances vary from state to state, this case should be a reminder to all property owners to vigorously protect their rights. Or they very well may lose them.