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Providing Cross-Media (Water, Air, Land) Answers to Difficult Questions
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Implements Environmental Decision Making with GIS
Eight years ago when new management took the reigns at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), they asked a very basic question. "How can we determine what is going on at any one regulated facility in the State in terms of air, water, and land?" The answer was simple: "Ummm . . . can we get back to you next Friday?"
Like many state environmental agencies, the NJDEP has historically struggled with regulating the environment with antiquated environmental databases that were unable to provide cross-media (water, air, land) answers to difficult environmental questions. New thinking concerning database normalization and integration has some states, such as New Jersey, reorganizing data and integrating powerful software to assist in the search for wisdom from information.
The New Jersey Environmental Management System (NJEMS) is the integrated transactional Oracle database that contains the NJDEP's major program databases. In order to assist new managers in their quest for wisdom from the gigabytes of data housed in NJEMS and put that wisdom on the desktop for NJDEP regulators, a new Intranet application, i-MapNJ, was developed with assistance from American Management Systems (AMS) of Fairfax, Virginia.
NJDEP and AMS chose Esri's ArcIMS and ArcSDE to deliver interactive mapping across NJDEP's Intranet and the Internet. The i-MapNJ application enables NJDEP staff to view and perform basic GIS analyses using GIS coverage and shapefile data on permitting and enforcement data residing in NJEMS.
"i-MapNJ helps you get the 'big picture' and as much detailed data as the system can provide," says former NJDEP Commissioner Bob Shinn. "For an environmental manager, this is an essential tool. For an administrator, getting different bureaus within our own agency to consolidate data to facilitate the decision making process was a major accomplishment, but we proved it can be done and are building upon our success and finding new ways to use this application."
The i-MapNJ application currently allows users in NJDEP to execute facility site searches relating to permitting, enforcement, and agency activities from NJEMS. i-MapNJ is designed to enable users at all levels of GIS sophistication to perform site searches and basic spatial analyses. Results from the site searches can be displayed with a number of GIS data layers including current digital orthophotography, land use/land cover, hydrography, roads, and watersheds. Further analysis can be performed using GIS tools in the i-MapNJ Map Tools toolbar.
Improving Decision Making
With the aid of ArcIMS and ArcSDE, the i-MapNJ browser-based application can now provide nearly everyone in the department with the capability to display a map image that integrates regulatory and environmental information for the purpose of improving the environmental decision making process. Before issuing a permit for a new major air facility, permitting staff can easily view a map showing criteria and emissions for air facilities in the same area. During a preapplication meeting with a developer, NJDEP staff can display a map view showing the locations of wetlands and other land use classes, known contaminated sites, and other GIS layers that might be of interest.
Launching from Within NJEMS or ENDEX
The i-MapNJ application can be accessed in two ways. The application can be launched from within the NJEMS application by clicking on a GIS tool in the NJEMS main toolbar. The application can also be launched from NJDEP's Environmental Data Exchange (ENDEX) Intranet site. In either instance, the user's default Web browser is opened and the application is launched. Users launching the application from NJEMS with a preselected NJEMS facility (site) of interest are presented with a map view of the site with a digital orthophoto image serving as a background at a one-mile-wide view extent. Users can then click on the Find Sites button to perform a multisite search and/or click on the Layers button to add GIS data to the view.
When launched from NJDEP's ENDEX Intranet site, the application displays a map of the State of New Jersey. Users can then click on the Find Site button to search for an NJEMS site by ID, locate an address (NJEMS site or not), or locate an x,y coordinate (in NJ State Plane coordinates). Alternatively, users may attempt a multisite search by clicking the Find Sites button at the bottom of the application's window. They may also click on the Layers button to add GIS data layers to the view.
The search types, using the Find Site and Find Sites tools within the i-MapNJ application, are designed to retrieve either a single site or multiple sites from NJEMS. Single site queries provide for locating an NJEMS site (or any location of interest) by entering an ID, locating a site by address, or locating a New Jersey State Plane coordinate. The multiple site queries enable the retrieval of sites having one or more NJDEP program interest (air, water, site remediation, etc.), sites based on NJDEP agency activity criteria (often activities related to permits), permit violations criteria, or discharge parameter criteria. The multiple site queries also allow the user to limit the retrieved set of sites to a specific geographic area. The geographic area can be a radial range where the user specifies a radius distance from a designated NJEMS site (or any location of interest), or the area can be defined by a GIS polygon that represents a county, municipality, or watershed.
The completion of the i-MapNJ ArcIMS application was a milestone for NJDEP. As programs from around the department witnessed the power of linking NJEMS and GIS using ArcIMS and ArcSDE, many new ideas emerged. Future development will incorporate integrating database report software and programmatic user profiles with i-MapNJ.
NJDEP expects to soon have a functioning Internet version of i-MapNJ available to outside users. Citizens will be able to query i-MapNJ to determine what regulated sites are in their neighborhood, municipality, and watershed.
Now, NJDEP managers can "let their fingers do the walking" through ArcIMS, using i-MapNJ to answer those difficult questions. No more waiting until next Friday!
Visit NJDEP's GIS Web site for further details (www.state.nj.us/dep/gis) or contact Lou Jacoby (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: 609-984-2243) or Larry Thornton (e-mail: email@example.com, tel.: 609-984-2243).