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Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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Residential Real Estate

New Elevation Maps Coming for Every Coastal Georgia County

The Coastal Georgia Elevation Project is finally getting underway, funded the State of Georgia’s Coastal Regional Commission (CRC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the US Geological Service, NOAA and all of the municipalities in the Coastal Georgia area.   
And, the Council has selected a vendor, PhotoScience of Lexington, Kentucky. The company has a Georgia office in Norcross. 
Jeff Simmons, vice president of the company, explained the project at the CRC’s September meeting, and showed the council members examples of the detailed, high- resolution maps that will become available for all of Georgia’s Coastal counties.
Using the LIDAR technology system used by PhotoScience, black boxes which shoot lazer beams down to the ground at 136,000 blips per second, will be attached to the bottom of aircraft that will fly at approximately 5,000 feet above the ground across every county, and “will produce data that will be critical to development of the coast, and the safety of the individuals,” explained Simmons. 
Onboard GPS systems on the planes calculate exactly where the aircraft is every second, as well, to arrive at the final maps.  
The technology can also “see through the trees,” said Simmons, to be able to map the land beneath for accurate elevation maps.  The system captures roads and structures down to the smallest stream, all features which affect how water will travel, be absorbed or flood. 
The maps will be used for engineering review of the myriad of construction and development projects that come before every city and county in the area, and will be used to model flood plain analysis, all to within one foot elevation accuracy, Simmons said.
In general the only data currently available for most of Coastal Georgia’s counties was collected 30 years ago. The technology available at that time selected landmark points every 300 feet.  This means that on average, the elevation information being used by most counties and municipalities could be as much as 16 ft. off – a significant difference – and the maps that many counties are using do not reflect 30 years of building and development. “The bottomline is the data has limited use,” he said.
The only counties with better data are Chatham, Liberty and Glynn which went through a similar process on their own a few years ago because of their need for more accurate flooding information for flood insurance purposes, and for engineering plans for  approving construction and development plans during the recent years of dramatic growth.
However, Chatham County Commission chairman, Pete Liakakis, a member of the Council who was in attendance for the presentation, asked if Chatham County would have access to the new information, because there is some inaccurate information on Chatham County’s maps.  “One of our municipalities had very inaccurate information and we have ended up with land that floods, and homeowners and developers ended up losing millions of dollars in their investments and the land if off the tax rolls,” he said. 
Simmons said that Chatham County is included in the project, and the county will have complete access to the latest information.
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