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March 28, 2008
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-USGS Satellite-imaging Programs Progress Despite FY 2009 Budget Decrease

-ASCE Report Promotes Increased Educational Requirements for Civil Engineers

-Alabama Legislature Introduces Controversial Bills to Create Rural Surveyors



An artist’s rendering of the Landsat 7 satellite, the current operating platform of the USGS. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey


USGS Satellite-imaging Programs Progress

President Bush proposed a $968.5 million FY 2009 budget for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in February, a decrease of $38 million from the FY 2008 funding enacted by Congress.

“Clearly, in a constrained budget environment, tough choices have to be made,” said Dr. Barbara Ryan, USGS associate director for geography. “There had to be some trade-offs in our existing program in order to create some space for some increases.

“I think we’ve got a good-news story from a land-sensing perspective,” Ryan said of the proposed budget that includes a $2 million increase to develop the National Land Imaging Program (NLIP), a two-year-old interagency program that examines middle-resolution Earth-observation capabilities. The $2 million, according to Ryan, is dedicated to technical studies and plans for future land-imaging systems that will enable the USGS to prepare to assume full responsibility for the Landsat program. “We fly Landsat 5; we fly Landsat 7,” Ryan said. “Both satellites are past their design lives, and so they’re slated to run out of fuel--if they don’t fail before that--in 2011 and the beginning of 2012. So we have a partnership with NASA to launch the next satellite, Landsat 8.”

However, the NLIP team recommends that the USGS focus on long-term continuity of Earth observation, not just the next satellite. “The proposal is to transition the Landsat series of satellites permanently [from NASA] … to the USGS,” Ryan said. “This $2 million in the ‘09 budget starts that process.

“We are very, very excited about, number one, stabilizing the policy environment associated with Landsat,” Ryan said, “and then the fact that the department, the Office of Management and Budget, and the president in his ‘09 budget recognized that this is an important first step.”

Of the entire USGS proposed budget, geographic research, investigation and remote sensing received $73.1 million, which is a $4.6 million decrease from 2008 levels. The national geospatial program received an increase of $580,000 for The National Map. According to Ryan, Congress is expected to complete hearings on the president’s proposed budget and decide on funding by October 2008. A copy of the president’s proposed USGS budget is available at www.usgs.gov/budget/2009/2009index.asp.

ASCE Report Promotes Increased Educational Requirements

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the second edition of its report, “Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century: Preparing the Civil Engineer for the Future.”

According to ASCE, educational requirements for students of engineering have not kept pace with the increasing technological complexity required of their work. “It is entirely possible that the fourth-grade teacher who inspires a young student to become a civil engineer is required to have a higher level of education than the engineer will when he or she begins designing and building the roads, bridges and water systems that support our global society,” said ASCE President David Mongan, PE.

In an attempt to reverse this course, the ASCE report provides a more comprehensive body of knowledge to better prepare future civil engineers. The report includes 24 specific outcomes in five key areas related to the levels of achievement required to enter the practice of civil engineering at the professional level: greater science and engineering fundamentals; greater technical depth or specialization; greater breadth in technical and professional practice; a broader exposure to the humanities; and a broader exposure to the social sciences. In addition, the report recommends that either a restructured undergraduate degree plus 30 additional credits and practical experience or a master’s degree and practical experience be required for licensure.

According to the ASCE, the implementation of its recommendations will represent a historic change in civil engineering education--a change that is slowly under way. In 2006, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) changed its model law in response to the initial ASCE body of knowledge report. The model law now states that as of Jan. 1, 2015, admission to sit for the professional licensure exam requires either a bachelor’s degree with an additional 30 credits of acceptable upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level coursework from approved course providers and a specific record of an additional four years or more of progressive experience, or a master’s degree in engineering from an institution that offers EAC/ABET-accredited programs (or the equivalent) with a specific record of an additional three years or more of progressive experience.

In January 2008, Nebraska became the first state in the nation to attempt to legislate implementation of the NCEES model law with the introduction of LB 742. If passed, engineers applying for licensure in Nebraska in 2015 will be required to meet the new standards. To view the ASCE report, visit www.asce.org/raisethebar.

Alabama Legislature Introduces Controversial Bills to Create Rural Surveyors

Two bills were introduced in the Alabama Legislature in February providing for the establishment of rural land surveyors in areas with populations of less than 5,000. The bills amend Section 34-11-2 of the Code of Alabama 1975. According to the bills, a rural land surveyor must meet one of the following criteria: a four-year civil engineering or forestry degree and successful completion of the Alabama State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors written exam; graduation from an approved technical curriculum related to surveying or forestry, two years of supervised surveying experience and successful completion of the state exam; or at least eight years of field experience in land surveying and at least three letters of recommendation attesting to satisfactory surveying work (according to House Bill 333; Senate Bill 386 also mandates the successful completion of the state exam).

According to Rep. Marc Keahey, sponsor of HB 333, the bill was introduced as an effort to demonstrate the difficulty rural areas are having getting access to surveyors.

Ann Galloway, executive director of the Alabama Society of Professional Land Surveyors (ASPLS), said the proposed legislation is the most serious issue ASPLS has faced in 10 years. “We have worked extremely hard for the last eighteen years to upgrade the surveying profession in this state,” she said. “We’re vehemently opposed to both bills.”

Over the last 18 years in Alabama, surveying regulations have been in transition. “This society, with the help of the Legislature and the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, has worked together through these years to improve the quality of land surveys in the state of Alabama,” Galloway said. In 1990, standards were established; in 1992, continuing education was mandated; in 1996, legislation was passed to require a college degree for licensure effective Jan. 1, 2008, which provided a 10-year phase-out period of an eight-year apprenticeship program for nongraduates.

According to Butler City Councilman John Boney Jr., whose Nov. 29, 2006, reprimand from the Alabama State Board of Licensure prompted the introduction of the bills, rural areas are facing a shortage of licensed surveyors as a result of the elevated surveying standards. “It’s gotten to the point that you can’t get a surveyor,” Boney said. “If you do, he [or she] charges you an outrageous price in this part of the country.” Boney was reprimanded for drawing a plat of Butler Cemetery at the request of the cemetery’s volunteer committee. Boney, a retired process engineer, performed the survey at no charge.

Regina Dinger, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Licensure, understands the problems some rural areas have in finding licensed surveyors. “But the circumventing of a licensure law is not the way to go about being able to provide those services,” Dinger said. “It would be a detriment to the public in the rural areas not to have individuals that have been determined by a licensing board through a review of their experience, education and exam methodology to ensure that somebody is competent to perform surveying. The rural areas and small municipalities should expect the same level of service as the rest of the state does.”

On Feb. 6, HB 333 was introduced and assigned to the Boards & Commission committee. SB 386 was introduced and assigned to the Economic Expansion and Trade committee on Feb. 19. “The bills are going to have to be amended and tweaked some,” said Sen. W. H. “Pat” Lindsey, sponsor of SB 386. Rep. Keahey adds, “I don’t have an intention in passing the bill the way it reads. I’d like to find some common ground with the land surveyors.” Both bills were pending action as of March 17. The bills can be found at http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/ACASLogin.asp.  

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