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Virginia Coastal Program: 2009 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Commonwealth University

Project Title:

Coastal GEMS Version 3 Draft Development

Project Description as Proposed:

The Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Environmental Studies has created the Coastal Geospatial and Educational Mapping System, or Coastal GEMS, through FY2003 Task 95.011 and FY2006 Task 93.04 in partnership with the Virginia CZM Program and Worldview Solutions, Inc.  Coastal GEMS is a gateway, or starting point, for accessing more comprehensive coastal resource information which should be considered in planning efforts and in making management decisions.  This gateway provides data and maps of the best remaining blue and green infrastructure in Virginia’s coastal zone from across state agencies and organizations, as well as information on the value and current management of those resources.        

Coastal GEMS was developed using ArcIMS mapping software that was implemented to produce maps with large amounts of spatial data.  This technology has proved useful until users need the ability for different basemaps, added cartography and a more fluid user interface. 

Upgrading to ArcGIS Server 10 will allow the Coastal Program to use current desktop cartography available in ArcGIS Desktop to publish those maps for consumption in Coastal Gems.  This allows users of Coastal Gems to view the same cartography that the Coastal Program uses to produce maps for reports and publications so there isn’t any confusion over interpretation of data. 

IV. Project Workflow and items created/delivered

a.       A draft prototype of GEMS version 3 will be created using the Microsoft Silverlight® Application Programming 
          Interface (API) for ArcGIS Server Version 10.  The Silverlight® API for ArcGIS® Server allows rich user 
          interaction with the data and maps. 

                    i.      Added user functionality will be implemented to allow uses advanced markup, layer display, and 
                            identification of cartographic features. 

                            1.      Attribute search: allows a user to search for specific attributes that are contained within the 
                                     GIS dataset

                            2.      Background change:  allows users to change the background of their current map to a 
                                     different cached layer to provide a different view.  An example would be switching between 
                                     Aerial Photography collected in 2002 with Photography collected in 2009.

                            3.      Identify:  Allows users to use either a buffered point, a custom shape the user determines 
                                     or a point to identify or find features.  This process works on points, lines and polygons and 
                                     users can specify distances and the layers used in the search.

                            4.      Measure tool: Allows users to construct straight-line or segmented line distances.  Users 
                                     can also create a polygon and the tool will calculate perimeter and area measurements in 
                                     desired units.

                            5.      Map Printing and Exporting:  Users will be able to leverage the vast amount of geographic 
                                      information displayed through the Gems portal with the ability to produce high resolution 
                                      PDF’s, and images (JPEG and PNG).  PDF Maps will also include custom legend and 
                                      other information/disclaimers that are needed.   The map legend will be generated for 
                                      the service the user is viewing at the exact time the map is generated.

                            6.      Ability for custom markup to allow users to enter text, shapes, etc., on the interface and 
                                     then print the map with those graphics.

                  ii.      Continuation of the ability for users to obtain non-spatial information about each data layer used 
                            in Gems.  The fact sheets will be accessible through a drop-down list  and includes a general 
                            overview of what the data layer contains, the status of the data, the data source, and links to 
                            access the data/more information from the data provider as well as their contact information. 

                  iii.      This will be a draft application with the DEQ Coastal Program providing input on the draft version 
                            before production version will be finished and implemented. 

                   iv.      DEQ Coastal Program is tasked to create and update non-spatial data for each layer and obtain 
                             new/updated layers to implement in coastal gems.

V.    Browser Compatibility

a.       The mapping components of the web site will offer browser support for Internet Explorer 6+, Mozilla Firefox 2+, 
           Apple Safari 2+, and Google Chrome 1+. The application will be built using Esri’s Microsoft Silverlight API for 
           ArcGIS Server.

VI. Multiple Thematic Maps

This solution includes the publication of many differently themed maps, based on published ArcMap documents. These can be implemented and accessed either as standalone interfaces, or switched between through a dropdown menu in a single common map interface. Under the single map interface, users can switch between different thematic maps while preserving the current map extent. The advantage of this solution is that DEQ will be able to develop new and modify existing map documents to publish and make available to the public.  Each map service will be bound to the list of available map layers and fact sheets available for each map layer.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

William J. Shuart, 804-827-0150;

Project Status:

9/1/2011 - 12/31/2011; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Coastal GEMS Version 3 Final Report (pdf)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

FY 09, Task 93.02 is the first of two consecutive grants to upgrade the VA CZM online mapping application, Coastal GEMS.  This grant funds the creation of a draft version of the updated application and the second grant (FY10 Task 93.02) funds the completion of the upgraded Coastal GEMS mapping application and will include a full report on all updates made to Coastal GEMS. 

The following tasks were completed during the grant period:

·         Implementation of a Windows Server 2008 framework for development along with an installation of ESRI’s
          ArcGIS Server 10.0. 

·         Installation of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and ESRI ArcSDE 10.0.

·         Migration of existing Coastal Gems layers from ESRI’s ArcSDE version 9.2 to version 10.0.  Addition of new
          layers included: Shellfish contamination areas.

·         A prototype viewer was designed using HTML 5 instead of using the Microsoft Silverlight Application Program
          Interface (API) for ArcGIS Server.  This option was chosen because HTML 5 allows programmers greater
          flexibility while interacting with objects like maps and data streams.  Because mobile devices (Apple iPads,
          iPhones, and Android Devices) are becoming more prevalent in usage and faster, applications like Gems
          needs to perform as well on those devices as they do on a solid network land connection.  A hybrid interface
          was chosen and built for this reason.  Microsoft Silverlight is a resource intensive API and performance would
          have been significantly lower using that technology.

·         Three map services were also built and deployed to use in the beta application.

The draft version of the upgraded mapping application was presented at the VA CZM Coastal Policy Team meeting on September 17th, 2012 and was available to view online at

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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