Geographic Information Services
Director: Geoff Almvig
This section covers where to find demographic information for Skagit County, the operational structure of the GIS Department, and our office history.
Skagit County Demographic Information: The US Census Bureau is one of the best sources to use to find out more about Skagit County demography. One of their best tools for doing demographic research is the American FactFinder. This tool offers an interactive way to view maps showing demographic information.
For more information about our community, go to "About Skagit County".
Demographic Support Maps: Listed below are several map products we have created that relate to our demographic profile. For example, the Topographic Map Atlas provides a detailed look at Skagit County's landscape and clearly defines areas of settlement.
Skagit County Eco Atlas 2000: a map series showing various ecological maps of Skagit County including land cover, elevation, timber harvest areas, and etc.
Skagit County 2011 Topographic Map Atlas: a topographic map atlas.
FEMA Flood Maps: newly adopted (2011) base flood elevations in Skagit County. Maps are produced by GIS using 2011 FEMA data
GIS Operations: The GIS Department is guided by the County mission statement and strategic plan; the GIS mission statement; our key values; and operational structure. We operate as a Central Service Department and charge our clients for the services we provide.
Skagit County Mission
Statement: Skagit County is a very special place to live, with beautiful
and diverse communities and extraordinary natural resources. Skagit County
Government proudly serves the people, businesses, communities and organizations
in this special place, guided by these principles:
OUR MISSION is to
be recognized as a premier county in Washington State for providing professional
leadership, operational excellence, timely assistance, and maximum efficiency
in service delivery to our customers.
Skagit County GIS
GIS Organizational Structure: Skagit County Geographic Information Services is a division of Central Services and reports to the County Administrator. The Central Service Division is made up of Geographic Information Services, Information Services, and Records Management. Central Services was formed in December of 2003 under Resolution Number: R20030425.
History: In September 1987, Skagit County contracted with Roy F. Weston,
Inc. to conduct a feasibility study for the implementation of an automated
mapping system for use within the County. The lead departments which initiated
this study were the Assessor's Office, the Auditor's Office, the Department
of Public Works, and the Planning and Community Development Department.
Weston established a study methodology that included characterizing the
existing manual mapping system, identifying needs, establishing requirements,
and creating a set of recommendations based on the cost and benefits of
implementing those requirements. The study clearly established the following
direct and indirect cost benefits:
The consultant recommended using an accurate cadastral survey framework to correlate map features with surveyed Public Land Survey System (PLSS) control points. Unfortunately, the county did not have good survey records available and either had to fund an expensive cadastral survey or find a cheaper alternative to meet their business needs. Because of limited funding, they elected to acquire the Department of Natural Resources PLSS control point network which was made up of mathematically protracted points. These points had an estimated accuracy of plus or minus 50 feet and this seemed acceptable for most of the county's needs.
In 1988, the County began the implementation of an automated mapping system by purchasing computer equipment, AutoCAD software, and by training two Records Management employees to begin building the cadastral map layers. A new Mapping Center division was formed under the Records Management Department. The result was the creation of two products: Assessor tax parcel maps and Public Works right-of-way maps. A road right-of-way research specialist was hired shortly after to help to assist the mapping technicians in the collection and compilation of right-of-way records. The Mapping Center included these three employees who were managed by the Records Management Coordinator.
In 1989, Skagit County formed the Data Processing Department to better manage the numerous computer systems that were quickly propagating throughout the County. The Mapping Department was moved from the Records Management Department to the Data Processing Department since both departments had similar technology issues and both were service providers for all county departments. The Data Processing Department hired a GIS Manager in 1991 to oversee Mapping Center staff and to provide guidance for GIS development in Skagit County.
In 1992, the County began to realize some of the limitations of AutoCAD software and decided to purchase ArcInfo GIS (Geographic Information System) software from ESRI. AutoCAD software was still used for the cadastral mapping effort, but ArcInfo was a better tool for handling projects, such as, the Washington Growth Management Act (GMA) that required complex spatial analysis. The Data Processing Director resigned in 1994 and a new director was hired. A prudent business decision was made by the County Administrator to separate the Mapping Center from the Data Processing Department.
Pressure for mapping services to support the GMA slowed the cadastral mapping effort. In addition, in 1996, the Mapping Center was given the additional challenge of readdressing approximately 22,000 rural addresses. However, before the readdressing effort could begin, the cadastral mapping had to be completed and two more employees were hired to expedite this work. The cadastral mapping was finished in 1997 and the Mapping Center quickly began the process of readdressing the County. The readdressing project was completed in 1998 and an Addressing Coordinator was hired in 1999 to manage the new address system. The readdressing project brought forth new technologies to expedite the project, such as, a Global Positioning System (GPS), linear referencing using a truck installed Distance Measuring Instrument (DMI), truck mounted laptop computers, and our first in-house written software applications. The department began sending staff to software and database development courses to further enhance their GIS capabilities. In 1999 a staff member earned a Computer Science degree and was promoted to a GIS Software Engineer.
The department's success
in writing software applications led to further advancement in GIS software
development. With the 1999 release of ESRI's Map Objects tool kit, the
Mapping Center created it's first GIS application called SkagitView which
provided a simple; yet powerful, mapping tool for any county employee
that needed desktop mapping. Success in software development also helped
the department to automate many mapping processes which enhanced office
efficiency and reliability. About this same time, ESRI launched their
Spatial Database Engine (SDE) product which changed the GIS database architecture
from single-use to an enterprise-wide scalable architecture. The Mapping
Center began the seemingly slow process of converting their traditional
GIS datasets to the new SDE format.
Also in 2001, the GIS Department contracted with Skagit 911 to provide geographic services for the Spillman public safety system and the Master Street Address Guide (MSAG). An employee was hired to coordinate information with the 46 different fire, law, medial, and government agencies to ensure the public safety system would have accurate geocoded information for enhanced 911 services.
The GIS Departments experience in public safety system service and natural disaster support led them to earning a strong reputation for using GIS as a tool to provide critical support services during these events. In July of 2007, two GIS staff members became part of the Type 3 Northwest Incident Management Team (NWIMT). This elite team was the first Type 3 team in the State of Washington and the 20th in the United States. The NWIMT provides multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional support for All-Hazards.
Since its inception 20 years ago, the GIS Department has increased its staff to10 full time employees that support approximately 35 different divisions of Skagit County government, as well as, providing contract services to more than 20 outside agencies. The staff manages more than a terabyte of information and has recently implemented new technologies, such as, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and Pictometry to help streamline services in Skagit County government. Their software development team has also implemented award winning web applications which include iMap and Crime Map. These applications account for nearly 2 million web page views per year and are consistently the top picks on Skagit County's web site. The GIS Department has won several awards at the State level for outstanding work in GIS. And on June 20th, 2007, the Skagit County GIS Department was recognized for excellence in the Geographic Information System (GIS) field with a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award at the 26th Annual ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, California. ESRI, the world leader in GIS software, presents the award to organizations and agencies that display dedication and commitment through their use of GIS technology. The winners of the award are chosen out of more than 150,000 organizations worldwide. In addition to their technical merit, the GIS Department has also had their maps published (2006-2007) in the prestigious ESRI Map Book which demonstrates their versatility in both technical and cartographic expertise.
It's taken about
20+ years of hard work but we have managed to achieve a few awards and
honors along the way. The following are some of the things we have achieved: