RALEIGH – State water quality and transportation officials earned a national award today for developing new mapping software that will save money and protect the environment during road construction projects.
Staff members with the state Division of Water Quality and Department of Transportation were honored by the Federal Highway Administration with Environmental Excellence Awards during the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in Seattle.
The award-winning initiative by DENR and DOT reflects Gov. Bev Perdue’s priority of streamlining state government, and more efficiently using the resources already available.
“By combining resources from these two agencies, we have been able to develop tools that will improve project planning, save taxpayer money and provide greater protection for the state’s streams and wetlands,” said Coleen Sullins, director of the state Division of Water Quality.
The two North Carolina agencies worked together to develop GIS-based models that produce more accurate maps of streams and wetlands statewide. The computer models, using Light Detection and Ranging – or LiDAR – data reinforced by on-the-ground observation, can predict where streams begin and where wetlands are located. State transportation officials say the maps will enable them to plan road construction projects that avoid or limit environmental impacts, thereby reducing the costs and time associated with the projects.
The two agencies also shared an award for Excellence in Ecosystem, Habitat and Wildlife with several other state and federal agencies for the development of the North Carolina Wetlands Assessment Method. This method is a scientifically-based way of assessing the function of 16 wetland types and will result in uniform assessments throughout North Carolina by state and federal agencies for project development, compliance and enforcement.
Others honored with the Excellence in Ecosystem, Habitat and Wildlife award include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, N.C. Division of Coastal Management, N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program, N.C. Natural Heritage Program, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Federal Highway Commission, Atkins North America Inc. and Axiom Environmental.
(Cutline for attached photo: Periann Russell, of the N.C. Division of Water Quality, conducts a GIS reading near a stream. Russell and other state and federal partners were recognized for developing mapping software that will save money and protect the environment during road construction projects).