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DigitalGlobe Imagery Helps Mississippi Protect Coast

By | July 26, 2004

      The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has elected to incorporate DigitalGlobe’s innovative QuickBird satellite imagery into its current geographic information system (GIS) to help with the management and protection of the state’s coastal wetlands and marine resources, and also to facilitate continued growth of green of another kind.

      Several federal and state programs support DMR, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

      In December 2003, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The study used historical satellite imagery to assess land use, land cover changes and population growth during a 30-year period in the three coastal counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson. The EIS found that population had increased by almost 52 percent, developed land increased by 51 percent and emergent wetlands decreased by nearly 33 percent. The study further estimated that the population of the tri-county area will grow by 17 percent to upwards of 50 percent by the year 2020, resulting in a loss of one to three percent of natural habitat.

      Longmont, Colo.-based DigitalGlobe provides geospatial information products and high-resolution satellite imagery. The QuickBird imaging technology will allow DMR to assess environmental conditions, to monitor the effects of population growth and development, to identify and manage land use and land cover, and to generate high-resolution maps of coastal habitats.

      DMR’s Comprehensive Resource Management Plan (CRMP) is working to coordinate agency efforts. Created in response to increased pressure placed on the state’s marine resources by the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s booming casino industry, CRMP was designed to seek a balance between the need for coastal resource protection and the need for economic growth and development.

      DMR manages coastal marine resources throughout the three coastal Mississippi counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson and the three watershed counties of Pearl River, Stone and George, which include 370 miles of shoreline and nearly 83,000 acres of emergent wetlands. DMR purchased 10 scenes (2,720 square kilometers) of 60-centimeter resolution panchromatic and 2.44-meter resolution multispectral QuickBird imagery covering six coastal preserves, which encompasses 34,282 acres. In addition, DMR purchased four scenes of imagery of the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Jackson County, which encompasses about 11,733 acres.

      According to Tina Shumate, CRMP bureau director for DMR, the long-term vision for CRMP is to preserve Mississippi’s natural resources while making use of the land to help the economy, a goal that she calls sustainable development, or “smart growth.” The QuickBird technology will facilitate this goal by providing more precise data for CRMP’s land-use- suitability models, which are used to inform public officials and to encourage development outside of environmentally sensitive areas.

      The high-resolution imagery will provide more accurate, site-specific information that will enable CRMP to make pre-development recommendations that will cut costs for developers in the long term. Grant Larsen, GIS unit director for DMR, discussed a practical example of how the agency will make use of this new technology. At a recent conference, DMR presented a test case of the QuickBird imagery and incorporated data from the images into a land-use-suitability model. The model gave the developers who attended the conference a better idea of which areas are in need of preservation and which are more conducive to development, Larsen said.

      DMR will enable government agencies and the public to access the imagery online at the DMR/CRMP Web site ( via an ESRI ArcIMS application.

      -Tonya Oben

      (Tina Shumate, CRMP, 228/374-5103; Grant Larsen, DMR GIS Unit, 228/374-5374)

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