PAMAP funding in Danger!

Sustainability of the PAMAP Program is Uncertain

This is an independent editorial piece by the Pennsylvania GIS Conference Coordinator.

It has not been approved by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PAMAP Program.

Sustainability of the PAMAP Program is in Danger!

Geospatial technology moves ahead, offering us more and more methods and tools for analysis and information management. Our geospatial assets continue to grow as local governments and private industry invest in data, people, and services. Unfortunately, the very foundation of Pennsylvania’s spatial data infrastructure, PAMAP, is facing great peril and may get no budget allocation next fiscal year. The paradox of unprecedented growth in the geospatial technology industry on the one hand and Pennsylvania’s inability to effectively leverage that growth to build a framework SDI on the other, is bewildering.

Over the past four years high-resolution orthophotography for the entire state has been produced by the PAMAP program. Last year the program began “re-flying” counties in the Central Region as it continued the three year refresh cycle. Unfortunately, limited resources (money) only allowed the program to fly nine counties (Adams, Bedford, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry) – far from the one-third of the state promised in the PAMAP 3-year re-flight schedule.

3 Year Re-flight cycle.

This year, funds have been assembled to re-fly the entire Eastern Region and finish the LiDAR data capture for the entire state, which began two years ago. This is good news. The bad news is we may not be able to do much with it. Here is the PAMAP budget situation:

Collection of imagery and LiDAR is proceeding as planned this spring under the 2007-08 budget. Processing of the imagery and LiDAR is dependent on funding in the 2008-09 budget. Funding for PAMAP is unsettled in the budget provided by the Governor’s Office in February. The line item for PAMAP is given no funding. A line item for infrastructure mapping is funded at $2.4 million for the year, with no funding beyond this year. It is presumed that this $2.4 million is to be used to complete the LiDAR and imagery processing, however, it provides no funding for program activities, data distribution, or future data.

What more can we say? The sustainability of PAMAP is very uncertain right now. Chances are there will be no money to continue next year! Over the past four years the people of Pennsylvania have invested over $15,000,000 in a priceless public asset and the return on that investment is just starting to flow in the form of cost savings, enhanced public services, safety and security, and business development.

So why stop now? If the original funding model has run its course, maybe it’s time to search for a new one. There are alternatives to explore. But whether it’s a line item in the state budget; continued stitching together of money from government agencies; some sort of public private partnership; or even outright private investment, we must find a way to build and sustain our spatial data infrastructure.

Call it PAMAP, or call it whatever you like. The fact is we’ve come together, along a very rocky road to build the base we have. We’ve laid the keelson, strung the ribs, built the boat, and raised the sails. Let’s not let the wood rot and the sails fray!

Let’s get our heads together at this year’s Pennsylvania GIS Conference and see if we can set a new course. Let’s figure out how we can leverage our investment and sustain a Commonwealth treasure!