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March 2021

Table of Contents:

  1. Project to Map Elevation in Central and Eastern Massachusetts
  2. OLIVER Modernization
  3. Orthophoto Acquisition Flights Underway
  4. Database Updates
  5. Events
Project to Map Elevation in Central and Eastern Massachusetts

MassGIS is pleased and excited to announce a detailed elevation mapping project covering the eastern half of Worcester County and the rest of eastern MA (excluding Nantucket which already has high quality elevation mapping). The western boundary of the project (see Figure 1) overlaps the detailed mapping for western Massachusetts acquired in 2015. Data acquisition will start in late March.

MassGIS Director, Neil MacGaffey, with support from senior management at MassGIS’ parent agency (Executive Office of Technology Services and Security), developed this project over about 18 months. Funding includes a grant from the US Geological Survey under their national 3D Elevation Program. Grant matching funds were provided by MassDOT, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the Cape Cod Commission.  

The data will, of course, be acquired using Lidar. The specification is for Quality Level 1 (QL1) data. Key characteristics of QL1 data are a minimum of eight Lidar pulse points (each point provides an X,Y location and an elevation value) per square meter with an estimated average pulse spacing (the “nominal aggregate pulse spacing”) of 0.35 meters (about a foot). The vertical accuracy of the points (RMSEZ)) is specified to be 10 cm (about 4 inches). The digital elevation model (DEM) will have a half-meter cell size.

The project’s DEM will have some hydro enforcement. Specifically, the DEM will be enforced so that culverts and bridges do not act as dams in hydrologic modeling. This will be especially helpful for anyone doing modeling for new storm water infrastructure or for bridge replacements. Also, hydro flattening in the DEM of streams and ponds will cover streams >= 15 meters (about 50 feet) and ponds >= 0.4 hectares (about a 1 acre). Data acquisition along the coast will be within +/- two hours of low tide. Another project deliverable will be culverts mapped as linear features. Additionally, the Lidar point cloud will have four extra classification classes: low, medium, and high vegetation and buildings and other man-made structures. If all goes to plan, we should start receiving data in Q1 of calendar 2022. 

map showing lidar acquisition area of eastern half of massachusetts
Figure 1
OLIVER Modernization

MassGIS’ flagship online map and data viewer, OLIVER, has served us and our constituents well for over 15 years by providing easy access for viewing, querying, and downloading the Commonwealth’s spatial data resources. However, the technology used by OLIVER is very old and meeting the requirements of modern browsers has become increasingly difficult.

With a recent funding appropriation and using feedback from a 2017 user survey, we have embarked on an OLIVER modernization project. Some little used or redundant tools will be dropped, user requested features added, administration will be made easier, and current multistep interactions will be streamlined. The new product will be renamed to MassMapper and we anticipate that we will run it in parallel with OLIVER for a period to facilitate the transition from OLIVER.

If you are a regular user of OLIVER and would like to participate in the testing phase over the coming months, please send email to with a subject of MassMapper. We anticipate releasing MassMapper in the late summer of 2021.

shows oliver online mapping interface
Orthophoto Acquisition Flights Underway
Because the weather has been relatively mild, the snowpack non-existent in the eastern part of the state, and several days have been cloud free, we have been lucky to get an early start on the orthophoto acquisition. In past years, imagery acquisition has not begun until early April. As of March 24th, about 25% of the state has been flown as seen in purple in this flight lines tracking map. Barring any dramatic weather changes, the race is on to complete the rest of the state before deciduous trees begin their leaf-out. Thank you to our corps of spotters across the Commonwealth for their contributions to the information we relay to our imagery contractor concerning ground conditions.
shows flight lines of southeast and cape and islands
Flight lines
Data Updates
  • Coldwater Fisheries Resources update by The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. New streams are sampled and evaluated annually. This update reflects 2020 sampling. The dataset appears in the Physical Resources folder in Oliver and the Data Viewer toolbar.
  • MassHistoric Inventory update from The Massachusetts Historical Commission. This version includes significant updates to Acton, Gloucester, Hubbardston, Malden, Marblehead, Otis, and Sturbridge. MHC staff have reviewed and corrected data for some of the first towns to be digitized: Abington, Canton, Halifax, Pelham, Rockland and Scituate; updates are in progress for Berkley, Hanover, Hull, Kingston, Lakeville, Marion, Middleborough and Pembroke. In Oliver and the Data Viewer toolbar the data are in the Cultural Resources folder.  
  • Standardized Parcels  MassGIS has updated 41 cities and towns in its standardized parcels database. Visit the link for full metadata, free data download, and web services. View and query parcels statewide in the Massachusetts Interactive Property Map. This online map includes an option to download data for an entire municipality: From the Layers dropdown check the ‘Download’ item and click anywhere to download all the parcel data for that city or town. The cached tiled web service that appears in Oliver and is available in ArcGIS Online includes these latest updates.

Spring NEARC 2021

Spring NEARC is an annual, one-day conference packed with professional development and networking opportunities for all levels of GIS users. This meeting attracts over 200 GIS users and is a more concentrated version of our annual Fall Conference. We invite you to join us virtually on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

ESRI Annual User Conference

Again this year, the annual user conference will be held entirely virtually from July 12-15, 2021. Registration is now open here.

Massachusetts Bureau of Geographic Information – MassGIS
Executive Office of Technology Services and Security - EOTSS
One Ashburton Place – Floor 8 
Boston, MA 02108

Phone: (617) 619-5611
Fax: (617) 889-7833

Share your exciting project with the GIS community
MassGIS – The Commonwealth’s Bureau of Geographic Information is located within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, and is charged with the collection, enhancement, storage, and dissemination of the Commonwealth’s geographic data and information.
Neil MacGaffey, MassGIS Director
Curtis Wood, EOTSS Secretary
Karyn Polito, Lt. Governor
Charlie Baker, Governor

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