NB_170_22_1 - NB 170-22-1 CGI - High Resolution Elevation Data (LiDAR) Acquisition
NB 170-22-1 CGI - High Resolution Elevation Data (LiDAR) Acquisition
National Bulletin: 170-22-1  
Date: July 6, 2022 
Subject: CGI - High Resolution Elevation Data (LiDAR) Acquisition  

Action Required By:  July 15,  2022  
Purpose.   This bulletin provides guidance for acquisition of high-resolution elevation data (i.e., topographic and topobathymetric LiDAR and IFSAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2022, and continues a nationally coordinated data management strategy to ensure quality of product, avoid duplication, and work toward a seamless, national elevation data set.     
Expiration Date.   December 31, 2022  
Background.   In 2018, NRCS approved the Long-Term Centralized LiDAR Investment Strategy. The strategy provides an efficient and cost-effective approach to the LiDAR acquisition process for NRCS. It also provides for funding to centrally store and distribute elevation data in enterprise geospatial web services, making the data accessible to the entire agency. NRCS state offices are to follow the centralized strategy and submit their prioritized requirements in the form of a multi-year plan to sequence projects by priority. Requests for central acquisition funding should include requirements listed in the explanation section.

New elevation data is needed to support agency analysis critical to highly erodible land (HEL), wetland conservation, and other efforts. The new elevation data will replace legacy topographic maps and datasets that are out of date and lack the quality or resolution to support conservation planning and design. Moreover, some areas have no elevation data suitable for business requirements. Areas that lack updated elevation data include areas with farmers, ranchers of color, and underserved communities such as tribal and ethnic communities. The governmentwide goal is to provide all customers access to elevation data within 8-10 years.

Currently, LiDAR data is being used extensively in agricultural, forestry settings, and other resource assessment applications. The data provides land use managers accurate topographic data to plan, design, and implement conservation practices. LiDAR quality level 2 (QL2) or higher resolution data is not yet available for all agricultural land in the United States.

LiDAR is extremely useful in completing technical determinations for HEL and wetland conservation. The NRCS HEL Tool, released in September 2019, can use LiDAR data to determine the HEL status of potentially highly erodible soil map units without the need for field evaluation. LiDAR is also useful for identifying water receiving landscape positions when completing certified wetland determinations as part of preliminary data gathering and synthesis for on-site determinations or when using off-site methods.

Much of the data acquisition has come from leveraging other Federal, state, and local funding in the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) partnership managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). NRCS has been a major supporter of 3DEP and the Broad Agency Announcement acquisition process to leverage partner investments to optimize the acquisitions. The USGS Broad Agency Announcement is a matching grant program that accepts applications annually, using funds from USGS, NRCS, and other Federal agencies. The 3DEP goal is to acquire, manage, and distribute 3D elevation data for the United States and its territories. Acquiring data through a unified approach significantly benefits Federal partners and the U.S. taxpayers in many ways.

The 3DEP is a cooperative program that meets the needs of a broad range of stakeholders and depends on shared contributions from Federal, state, tribal, and private-sector partnerships. NRCS is a committed partner in the 3DEP effort. The NRCS uses 3D elevation data to support multiple business areas, including watershed, soils, geology, wetlands, vegetation management, easements, restoration, engineering, mapping, and other programs.

The Geospatial Enterprise Office (GEO) in FPAC Business Center, Information Services Division, participates in 3DEP on NRCS’ behalf and has implemented an efficient acquisition and data management system to create a seamless, national elevation dataset.        
Explanation.   To achieve the desired goals and benefits of the national data management strategy, State conservationists, division directors, and center directors or designees will coordinate LiDAR acquisitions through GEO and are encouraged to use the USGS Geospatial Products and Services Contract for their LiDAR requirements. States and divisions are also encouraged to use the new 5-year interagency agreement between NRCS and USGS. States and divisions should share alternative plans with the regional conservationists and the elevation program manager in GEO.

The process for nationally coordinated LiDAR acquisition and data management during FY 2022 and the next few years is as follows:

  • Provide geographic areas of interest and anticipated funding sources by July 15, 2022. See the NRCS 3DEP Areas of Interest website for format and instructions on how to upload new areas of interest. In addition, report all projects the State would like to acquire over the next few years regardless of State funds and list the State FY 2022 funds available to acquire the data on the “ProjectedStateLiDARFunding2022” spreadsheet linked in the website.
  • States should obtain approval from their regional conservationist in concurrence with their State conservationist by July 15, 2022, before returning funds for fall 2022 and spring 2023 by following these steps:

o    State Financial Resource Specialist (FRS) or point of contact (POC) initiates review to regional and State conservationist.

o    Regional and State conservationist review and confirm investments with State POC, then approve or reject.

o    If approved, State FRS or POC initiates funds transfer, returning funds through a request in the Allotment Planning and Management tool in FMMI, noting the following in the subject line: “FY2022 LiDAR Acquisition.”

o    Management & Strategy verifies that the funds are available and executes transfer in coordination with Budget Execution.

o    State FRS or POC notifies Elevation Program Manager of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) code and amount.

o    National Elevation Leader updates “ProjectedStateLiDARFunding2022” spreadsheet.

  • If requesting central funding (which may or may not be available this year), provide the following information by email:

o    Whether there are high-workload areas in the area of interest.

o    Whether there is a significant presence of farmers and ranchers of color or underserved communities such as tribal and ethnic communities.

o    The status of existing elevation data in the requested area (i.e., no LiDAR, inadequate quality LiDAR, or outdated LiDAR approaching 8 years old).

o    A list of current or potential partners and the status of collaboration or participation in state LiDAR plans.

o    Estimated amount of funding requested.

  • All elevation task orders should request a copy of the data to be sent to the State office and GEO for support of building a national map and making data available in enterprise applications such as Conservation Desktop.
Requests to transfer funds received after July 15, 2022, will be reviewed by GEO in consultation with the Office of Regional Conservationists for consideration pending status of grants and agreements processes.

GEO is available to assist States with questions related to contract specifications and contracting opportunities, such as partnering with USGS and leveraging potential funds through the 3DEP partnership. Minimum specifications for acquiring high resolution elevation data for new uncovered areas of interest must meet 3DEP LiDAR QL2.    
Contact.   For further information and access to the online portal for data submittals, please contact GEO Section Chief Collin McCormick at Collin.mccormick@usda.gov or 817-228-8923.    


  Deputy Chief Soil Science and Resource Assessment

  Regional Conservationist - West

  Regional Conservationist - Central

  Regional Conservationist - Northeast

  Regional Conservationist - Southeast  

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