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Summer 2008
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Online Only Article Park City, Utah, Uses GIS to Create Environmental Information Repository

Data Viewer Popular Beyond Expectations

Highlights

  • GIS helps manage environmental ordinances and compliance.
  • Remediation boundary and regulated lots are digitized with ArcGIS.
  • Success has streamlined decision-making processes and improved service.

Incorporated in 1884, Park City, Utah, has a rich silver mining history that spans from 1863 until the turn of the century. However, because of various economic downturns, mining interest dwindled, and

  old photo
Incorporated in 1884, Park City historically has a rich silver mining history which spans from 1863 until the turn of the century.
by the 1950s, the mining district refocused its image to accommodate recreational skiing. With the interest in skiing, Park City was reborn in the 1960s and currently thrives as a key resort town. In spite of Park City's recreational success, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (UDEQ) have scrutinized the environmental impacts related to silver mining and in 1985 proposed to list the city on the Superfund National Priorities List. The main concern was residential households situated within areas known to have elevated lead concentrations exceeding USEPA's health-based risk standard of 400 parts per million.

Consequently, in 1985, the city defined a boundary encompassing 618 acres of residential and commercial property that is required to be remediated to isolate the lead from human contact by installing a six-inch clean topsoil cap. Coupled with that concern was the explosive development the city must manage in a manner that preserves the precious and unique environment of the Wasatch Mountains. To assist in environmental preservation, the Park City Council adopted a Sensitive Area Overlay (SAO) Zone ordinance in 1992 with the primary intent of restricting development in aesthetically and environmentally sensitive areas. The sensitive areas protected by the ordinance include steep slopes, ridgelines, entry corridors, wetlands, streams, and wildlife habitat.

The Park City Environmental Data Viewer (mapserv.utah.gov/ParkCityGIS) was developed specifically as an innovative information repository to educate the numerous stakeholders within Park City of the local environment, SAO, and the remediation that remains ongoing to improve both the East Canyon Creek and Silver Creek watersheds. In developing this application, several goals were accomplished, resulting in a community that is more aware of the city's past and is able to plan for the future in a manner that protects and preserves sensitive environmental areas within the city limits.

In 2004, the Building Department spearheaded the development of a GIS that was capable of managing environmental ordinances and compliance. Therefore, the remediation boundary and regulated lots were digitized with ArcGIS Desktop software, which was connected to the database system that contained the historical soil sampling data. Once this was completed, the value of the GIS for tracking the remediation progress within the boundary was immediately recognized. Not only could the city track compliance, but since the underlying contaminant levels were mapped within the GIS, a utility installation contractor could research different routes to avoid contamination and potentially avoid excessive soil disposal costs. In addition, the city recognized the substantial savings for the Public Works Department, which could research the contamination level at different areas of the city before

  click to enlarge
The Park City Building Department can track compliance and, since the underlying contaminant levels were mapped within the GIS, utility installation contractors can research different routes to avoid contamination and potentially avoid excessive soil disposal costs.
disturbing the site. The data gathering process for the application was a four-year effort, and after the value was clearly recognized, the question was asked, Why not provide this information to the community on the Internet as an educational resource, as well as a tool to assist in evaluating development and growth?

With that question, the Building Department contacted the Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) to inquire into its interests in assisting the city in developing an environmental data viewer. AGRC approved the idea to develop such an application with ArcGIS Server software. The application went through several different renditions with regard to format and implementing stakeholder ideas. The city provided all the GIS dataset layers from its ArcGIS Desktop software. In addition, since Park City did not have a GIS server, the city and AGRC drafted a mutual agreement that would allow the data viewer to be located at AGRC.

Meanwhile, staff recognized there was no budget for such an application. Therefore, the idea of the data viewer was presented to the East Canyon Watershed Committee, which also embraced the development of a GIS environmental data viewer for the watershed. The watershed committee unanimously voted to provide Section 319 Clean Water Act Grant money to fund 60 percent of the cost for development.

Project Finalized

In December 2007, the data viewer was finalized, comprising all ideas from the committee.

The Park City Environmental Data Viewer has been such a success that building official Ron Ivie is amazed by its popularity and the number of users that access the data. Upon starting this endeavor, he thought there would probably be 4 services per day for the site; instead, he is completely astounded by the statistic of 576 services per day, which remains consistent.

Additionally, the department managers are also very satisfied with the viewer, since they now have a resource they can access without having to go to different locations to obtain answers to their environmental questions. The Planning Department is able to enforce stream setbacks and uniformly enforce the Sensitive Area Overlay. The Building Department can research whether a proposed building will be built over a mine shaft before issuing a building permit. The Public Works Department is able to determine where the drinking water source protection delineation exists, monitor activities within the boundaries, and prohibit potential contaminant sources. The City Engineer can evaluate lead levels and determine if the generated soils from installing utilities will need to be managed appropriately and disposed of at a permitted facility. USEPA and UDEQ have a product that provides them with up-to-date information with regard to the remediation progress of residential lots. Also, the city can consult with the Army Corps of Engineers or Department of Natural Resources cooperatively for activities that may intrude on jurisdictional waters. The watershed committee is using the data viewer to evaluate different areas of the watershed that can be improved. And Park City High School science classes use the data viewer for their research projects and field trips.

The city also recognizes the value the data viewer provides in managing the risks associated with the historic mine impacts that exist throughout Park City. Numerous other stakeholders, including the real estate community, lenders, buyers, owners, consultants, contractors, and developers, use the data viewer continuously to assist them in answering specific questions about Park City's unique environment, lead concentrations, remediation progress, and other issues related to past impacts. The program has successfully streamlined decision-making processes internally and improved internal and external services. It is a stable platform that will only become more useful and successful as additional GIS data is procured. Finally, the data viewer is an excellent model for other mining communities that are experiencing similar explosive growth and need to manage development while also protecting the environment during remediation and enforcement of institutional and engineering controls.

More Information

For more information, visit the Park City Environmental Data Viewer at mapserv.utah.gov/ParkCityGIS or contact Jeff Schoenbacher, environmental coordinator, Park City, Utah (tel.: 435-615-5058, e-mail: jschoenbacher@parkcity.org), or Barry Biediger, Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center (tel.: 801-537-9078, Web: agrc.utah.gov).

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