Point of Beginning

<b>Viewpoint</b><br><b>Geodetic mark preservation.</b>

September 1, 2001
The use of geodetic markers is almost a fact of life for most professional land surveyors. Since the establishment of the control network by the government, these markers have been the basis for accurate maps, charts, boundary surveys and a variety of engineering and construction projects throughout the country. With the ever-increasing use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) networks, the locations of these markers are becoming more important every day. It is also widely known that many of these markers have been destroyed for various reasons. Other markers cannot be located due to poor descriptions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey (NGS) Division has established approximately one million permanent survey marks. Other surveying organizations have also established such permanent marks. Preserving these marks and reporting their conditions is an enormous task.

The replacement of a disturbed or destroyed survey marker is both time-consuming and expensive. However, those in danger of being destroyed can be salvaged at moderate expense if the government is aware of their condition. As we are aware the expense of a systematic investigation of all these monuments is impractical.

While I am sure many professional land surveyors have participated in preserving these monuments, it is however somewhat impractical to devote the hours required to systematically check all the monuments as well as the descriptions. So what is the answer to this growing dilemma?


One viable alternative is the use of the United States Power Squadrons (USPS). What does the United States Power Squadrons have to do with monument preservation, you ask? USPS members use thousands of charts each year. Most of these charts are prepared by the National Ocean Service (NOS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1963, an agreement was first executed between the USPS and NOAA. This agreement led to the development of the Cooperative Charting Program by USPS. Within this agreement the USPS agreed, through the use of volunteer observers, to report on the condition of geodetic control stations in the National Geodetic Reference System. To accomplish this task, the USPS developed procedural guidelines for Geodetic Mark Recovery as part of the Cooperative Charting Program. Further expansion of the Cooperative Charting Program led to what is known as Adopt-A-Chart. In Adopt-A-Chart, a local power squadron adopts all or a portion of the chart in his or her geographical area. By adopting the chart, the squadron is committed to providing the NOS data to keep the chart current. This commitment is not for a year or two, but continues year after year.

One of the functions of the program is for USPS members to locate the geodetic marks in each squadron’s designated area. Once the marks are located, their conditions are reported along with any changes in the description that is needed to locate them. Members are urged to use the descriptions provided in trying to locate each mark and update the description as necessary. When a member has completed the task of locating a mark, updating the description if necessary and recording the condition of the mark, a report is sent to NOS for future use. Currently, the procedure is to use the Internet to submit the initial report, followed by a hard copy submitted through the Squadron Co-op Charting chairperson, District Co-op Charting chairperson and onto NOS. Under current guidelines for geodetic mark recovery, marks should not be reported if reported within the last five years. In theory, this would mean a squadron is checking individual marks once every five years.

In order to encourage participation in the program, squadron members are awarded credit for the work they perform. The Cooperative Charting Program has established a minimum number of credits required, depending on the squadron’s location, to achieve honor roll status. NOAA awards honor roll statuses annually to nationally recognize those members for the extra hours of service in the Cooperative Charting Program. In addition to each member being encouraged to obtain honor roll status, individual squadrons are encouraged to earn enough credits for the honor roll as well as each district. It is the goal of all Co-op Charting chairs to have as many members obtain honor roll status as possible along with having their squadrons placed on the honor roll. Each district chairperson would like to see his or her district on the honor roll.

The United States Power Squadrons currently consists of 33 districts with 446 individual squadrons. There is a membership of over 50,000 people throughout the United States. With this amount of personnel, one can realize how important the value of this program is to NOAA. Since the USPS members perform this work as a community service, a systematic check on geodetic marks is being performed at virtually no expense to NOAA.

As a professional land surveyor I am sure you realize how useful this updated information is. If you need the location of a mark for a specific project, it may be beneficial to contact your local power squadron. They may have knowledge if the mark has been recently recovered, thus aiding in your search. Perhaps they would be more than willing to search and locate the mark you are seeking as part of the Cooperative Charting Program. You can also use the power squadron to report to NOAA the condition any marks you may have knowledge of. Another useful tool is the ability of the Squadron to notify NOAA of anything that may endanger the future of the mark. If your project would put the recovered mark in danger of being destroyed, by notifying the squadron a report will be filed with NOAA that would allow the mark to be relocated for future reference.

So now the question has been answered what the United States Power Squadrons has to do with geodetic mark preservation. Not only does the USPS promote safe boating though education, but it can also provide a benefit to the surveying profession as well.