A new function of the District of Muskoka’s Geographic Information System (GIS) will be able to better predict where flooding will happen.

The team has launched the LiDAR Discovery StoryMap. LiDAR is short for Light Detection and Ranging, which is a type of surveying that scans the ground with a laser mounted to a plane. The interactive map will allow users to see three-dimensional, high-resolution ground elevation data on the GeoHub website.

Graham Good, the district’s Manager of Geomatics, explains the plane flies over a certain region and sends down millions of lasers, which return with elevation data.

“What we’re able to with the data is to remove all the noise – the trees, bushes, the vegetation, the buildings, and the cars – so we’re able to find only the elevation of the ground where these lasers penetrate through the tree cover to return that info,” says Good.

Currently, one-third of the District of Muskoka is surveyed for the project. By this time next year, officials expect half of the district to have been looked at. Good says this was last done in the 1980s. Since then, he says the technology used is far more advanced, allowing for more accurate data.

While the ground may look completely flat with vegetation and buildings on top, Good says that isn’t the case. With all of it stripped away, it allows district officials to create new flood line mapping, which will help them predict and prevent flooding. 

“We will now be able to create very accurate flood line mapping zones to show future potential flood events,” he says.

“Muskoka is a unique place with a diverse landscape,” adds Good. “The very accurate LiDAR data presents many opportunities for the Muskoka community since this information can be used for so many applications such as development policy and emergency response.”

Since the new function was launched last week, Good says nearly 1,500 people have used it. He notes that’s higher-than-usual for the app.