EPA Report on National Spatial Data Infrastructure Implementation for CY 1997
National Spatial Data Infrastructure Vision
Current and accurate geospatial data will be readily available to contribute locally, nationally, and globally to economic growth, environmental quality and stability, and social progress.
Increase the awareness and understanding of the vision, concepts, and benefits of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) through outreach and education. EPA , at present, has no formal NSDI implementation plan in place. The agency is however, working to apply appropriate FGDC standards, use clearinghouse technology for posting metadata and data discovery and has established agreements with other federal agencies for production of geospatial data, particularly the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for Digital Orthophoto Quadrangles (DOQ) and the Multi-resolution Landscape Characterization product. The agency also has a National GIS Workgroup. This group has produced a strategic plan that embodies several of the NSDI goals. The plan includes efforts to (1) provide open access and exchange of geospatial data between the Agency, states, other federal agencies, local government, and the public to empower greater participation in decisions affecting environmental management, (2) provide communication links between these entities, (3) implement documentation standards and (4) improve the spatial component of data associated with areas of environmental concern. As this group works their strategic plan they are also working to help implement the NSDI.
The benefits of identifying and coordinating development of geographic data to address community problems may not be obvious to all. Most geographic information systems are built for a critical operational need by a school district to route buses, by a fast food chain to locate new stores, by a scientist to model a watershed. In many cases these application-specific needs limit the potential for data-sharing by enforcing particular ways of representing phenomena. Data sharing involves activities that may initially be seen as extra work, for example documenting data sets with metadata, or canvassing other organizations for data. Enhanced participation in the NSDI will result from clearly communicating rationales for data sharing in languages appropriate to differing communities. The goal recognizes that understanding can be a lifelong process and seeks to foster the spread of NSDI concepts through communication and education. This goal encourages all communities who work with geographic data to communicate widely with others and to actively seek opportunities to work in concert.
- NSDI implementation plan in place and used
Through the EPA GIS Workgroup items of interest concerning the NSDI are distributed to the EPA geospatial data community. This allows for communications through the Regions to a wide variety of organizations involved in the use of geospatial data. Web- based technologies are in place for use in obtaining and providing information concerning the NSDI. Also, mailing lists for headquarters staff involved in geospatial data use are available and used to disseminate information concerning the NSDI.
- Organizational policies in place to make employees aware and knowledgeable of the NSDI
No specific agency training has been held regarding the NSDI. Information concerning the location of potential training and training materials from the FGDC is made available to appropriate staff through the communications channels mentioned above. In the past, selected staff have attended seminars concerning the metadata standard and establishment of NSDI clearinghouse nodes. There has also been participation in related conference calls.
- Training identified and provided
Regional GIS teams are aware of the NSDI. These teams participate with other federal entities including organizations within the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture. They also interact with non-federal entities such as state government and groups such as the Nature Conservancy. There is also interaction with tribal and local organizations.
- Field offices have knowledge of the NSDI and are encouraged to participate with other federal and non-federal organizations
The major barrier associated with progress of the NSDI at EPA is the size of the Agency (10 regional offices and several labs). The best way to overcome this barrier is continued communication with the EPA GIS Workgroup. They are the ones primarily involved with the use of geospatial data and have the knowledge of data use and application development within the diverse organizations of EPA. Use of web technology has been and will continue to play an important role in helping to overcome the EPA size barrier. This technology plays an integral role in communicating and disseminating information related to geospatial data.
- Barriers that impede progress identified and effort initiated to overcome those barriers.
Develop common solutions for discovery, access, and use of geospatial data in response to the needs of diverse communities. EPA has developed procedures to document geospatial data and to check compliance with the FGDC Metadata standard using the "Metadata Parser" developed by the FGDC. To date in 1997, we have documented about 15 new geospatial data sets and redocumented over 60 legacy geospatial data sets. The agency makes available over 100 metadata files to geospatial datasets through a clearinghouse node on the Internet. Considering the number of smaller geospatial data sets that are or could potentially be used by regional offices and labs, it is difficult to determine a percentage of these data sets that have been documented using the metadata standard. It is imperative that we continue communications concerning the standard so that the agency moves towards complete documentation of those geospatial data sets used and produced by the EPA. EPA maintains a clearinghouse node for the NSDI. This node contains metadata on the number of geospatial data sets mentioned in the previous section. The Agency has upgraded this service to a faster server and better word searching techniques. We provide geospatial data to those who have discovered the data via our clearinghouse by using file transfer protocols. Along with this, the Agency is working to communicate the need to check for the existence of geospatial data via clearinghouse nodes, including our internal node and external nodes. Efforts are also continuing to provide procedures for assuring that these actions are completed when geospatial data is necessary in helping the agency meet mission needs.
For the NSDI to succeed, geographic data must become easier to find and work with. Ideally, geographic data would be readily available as part of a common utility like the road system or the power supply. Libraries of data could reside online that users could access from anywhere. Once found, data would be easy to transfer and use in different applications; every data set would have full and complete metadata to ease the process of transfer and use. Some analyses could be performed remotely by integrating data from several sources. This goal addresses technical solutions and approaches to achieve these common solutions. Technical solutions alone are not enough, however. There must be a willingness of many communities to work together to forge the common means from the bottom up.
Use community-based approaches to develop and maintain common collections of geospatial data for sound decision-making. Through 1997, the agency continues to use the FGDC metadata standard. Several spatial data sets have been documented and the information is available through the EPA Clearinghouse. The agency also keeps abreast of other emerging standards and how they could potentially be used at EPA. The agency has played a pivotal role in the development of the emerging FGDC facility identification standard and once approved will work to implement this in conjunction with other agency facility identification efforts.
Large centralized national data holdings are costly to assemble and maintain. The most accurate and highest resolution data are created and maintained close to the locations where they are used. As data moves away from their geographic base, away from those who have vital use for them, there is less incentive to maintain them. This goal looks toward developing the organizational relationships and technologies to build distributed locally maintained collections of data. These collections will be available for many citizens for different purposes. The framework initiative will provide a foundation layer of basic data themes on which many applications can build. A coordinated national effort will provide other thematic data layers to improve economic growth, environmental quality and stability, and contribute to social progress. Much of this effort will involve establishing common languages for talking about the natural and man made environments and the data that represent them through standards development and data models. Finally, this goal seeks to involve different communities of interest in building these common data stores
- FGDC Standards implemented and used
EPA is not assigned the leadership role for any subcommittee or working groups. The agency however, is very active in those areas most likely to have an impact on the agency's mission. These include primarily the Facilities Workgroup, the newly formed Biological Workgroup, and the Cultural and Demographic Sub- Committee. The agency also participates on other FGDC entities including the Standards Workgroup, the Geodetic Control Sub- committee, Wetlands Sub-committee and others.
- Active leadership provided by agency for subcommittee/Working Groups as assigned
Where EPA has been involved in standards development, we have supported inclusion, as best possible, non-federal entities. This is especially true of the Facilities Workgroup, where private sector staff along with local government participation has been encouraged.
- FGDC Standards under development include necessary non-federal participation
At present, EPA is not responsible for the maintenance of any standards. We are looking to maintain the emerging Facility Identification standard along with the Corp of Engineers. This standard is now under public review.
- Leadership provided for maintenance and implementation for approved standards which are agency responsibility
As mentioned, EPA has representation on most subcommittees and working groups. We have representation on the Facilities, Standards, Biological, and Clearinghouse work groups and the Base Cartographic, Land Cover, Cultural and Demographic, Vegetation, Geodetic, and Wetlands subcommittees. All of the work associated with these groups has potential impact on the EPA.
- Active participation of Subcommittees/Working Groups that impact agency responsibilities
EPA efforts associated with Framework has been centered in our Office of Water. The EPA Office of Water in conjunction with USGS is working to complete the National Hydrographic Data Set. This has involved coordination between federal and state governmental entities along with contractor staff that has been tasked to help complete this data set.
- Plan in place for collecting/providing data for Framework
EPA is working with the USGS to produce the National Hydrographic data set. A standard for the National Hydrographic Data Set is not yet in place, even though production continues based on already produced specifications. EPA is cognizant of the importance of development of such a standard and could potentially participate with the USGS in the development of a standard for the National Hydrographic data set. This activity would need approval of the Office of Water.
- Standards for Framework theme of Agency responsibility in place
For geospatial data, EPA follows an internal geospatial data management plan that follows a life cycle approach to management of these data. On portion of this life cycle allows for dissemination of these data. Where project efforts result in the production of spatial data that may be beneficial to the public, EPA is working to both document and make the data available through the Clearinghouse process. This is especially true of our point data that represents EPA regulated facilities as well as other points of environmental concern.
Thematic Data Collections
- Data management plans established for projects to enable data to become available through the NSDI Clearinghouse
EPA is continually working to leverage funds for spatial data collection activities. We now have an interagency agreement in place with the USGS for the production to Digital Orthophoto Quads, Digital Raster Graphic, and a Multi-resolution Landscape Characterization product. EPA is also working with other federal agencies to make Nature Conservancy data available through an agreement with the Conservancy and we work with both the states and our regions to improve the locational data associated with entities of environmental concern.
- Opportunities to leverage funds, for data collection activities fully used
Build relationships among organizations to support the continuing development of the NSDI. As mentioned previously, we have an interagency agreements with USGS for production of a variety of geospatial data products. EPA also has agreements with both our regions and several states to help leverage the production of locational data for points of environmental concern and the sharing of these data with other organizations. These data will also be available to the public through the use of our Envirofacts Data Warehouse. Besides these efforts, EPA also has agreements with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Decisions about common pieces of geography whether they be towns, watersheds, states, or the nation should be made by the people most directly concerned. The impediments to citizen participation are not just those of awareness or of access to information. In many cases new funding sources must be found to support the information infrastructure. Often there is organizational inertia to overcome. Laws conceived in the past for different circumstances prevent groups from working together today. Access to technology can be a factor. As much as is possible, this goal intends to identify potential new resources and, at the same time, identify and remove difficulties. The goal is to achieve a vibrant network of organizations working together and with their counterparts internationally.
- Data sharing partnerships in place
Our regional offices work with several state and local agencies to obtain spatial data for environmental protection reasons. This includes data on locally regulated entities and natural resources for use in EPA applications. These regional offices also work to provide the local entities spatial data that may be of use in their environmental protection efforts.
- Local federal office contribute and use data within community or geographic entity
EPA is following the policies set forth by Executive Order 12906. We have and our continuing to document the geospatial data used by the Agency in it's operations. We are also making this data available to the public and other governmental entities through both our Envirofacts Warehouse and our FGDC Clearinghouse node. In doing this, we are utilizing the metadata standard as set forth by the FGDC. The agency is also working to see that these policies are followed at all agency levels. Besides these federal policies there are some internal EPA policies that support the NSDI. These include our spatial data management plan and locational data policy. The spatial data management plan calls for dissemination of geospatial data in a way that is compliant with federal mandates. The agency locational data policy states that all points of environmental concern will have latitude and longitude coordinates of know quality. This effort dovetails with the standards work of the FGDC, especially those dealing with the quality of point data and the quality component of the metadata standard.
- Follow policies that facilitate full and open public access to geo data including the data access policies adopted by the FGDC