Point of Beginning


January 31, 2006
Safe Communities Act could benefit surveyors; surveyors urged to aid FEMA Flood Map Modernization; GNSS updates; and NOAA's UFCORS server delivers 2-millionth GPS data package.

Safe Communities Act Could Benefit Surveyors

In November 2005, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) sent notice to its members about its support for the Safe Communities Act of 2005 (H.R. 3524). Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 28, 2005, the bill deals primarily with land use planning on the state and local levels, and authorizes federal grants to communities to be used for the development of land use planning statutes as well as the implementation of land use plans. There is no language in the bill specifically relating to surveyors; however, it does direct that grant funds can be used for assessing, inventorying or mapping critical public infrastructure for use in developing land use and community development policies, and for the development of GISs including data development. Surveyors could benefit from this bill because they would be needed on the local and state levels in the development and implementation of land use plans. ACSM encourages surveyors to contact their state representatives to express their support of the bill.

Specifically, the Safe Communities Act sets forth federal funding to state and local governments for: (1) developing a comprehensive land use plan and integrating natural hazard mitigation and security plan elements into state and local comprehensive plans; (2) assessing, inventorying or mapping critical public infrastructure; (3) developing GISs; (4) acquiring scenario planning or risk assessment technology; (5) reviewing building codes, zoning, land use regulations and related state legislation; (6) implementing crime prevention through environmental design initiatives; (7) assessing land use risk; (8) incorporating mitigation and security elements in transportation plans, facilities and operations; (9) encouraging interagency cooperation, particularly between first responders and state and local planning agencies; and (10) identifying natural hazard areas and integrating them into comprehensive plan updates.

At press time, the bill resided in the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology.

Surveyors Urged to Aid FEMA Flood Map Modernization

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently attempting to digitize flood maps for the entire country within a five-year period (2004-2008). Concerns have been raised about the quality of the maps being produced for this initiative. Surveyors are encouraged to research and support this program locally to raise the level of quality of the FEMA flood maps.

This FEMA project, known as the Multi-year Flood Hazard Identification Plan (MHIP), has been allocated $200 million each year for its implementation. The MHIP was created by the FEMA Flood Map Modernization Coalition, which is comprised of 16 organizations including the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The MHIP is available on the FEMA website at: www.fema.gov/fhm/mh_mhip_ver1_5.shtm. Surveyors concerned about inaccurate flood maps are invited to learn from the project's timeline when FEMA will be in their area. When FEMA comes to a particular county, the agency hires local surveyors to do the needed surveying work; surveyors can bid for FEMA's subcontracts. In addition to the timeline, the FEMA website also includes a section where surveyors can submit comments to FEMA regarding the MHIP.

GNSS Updates

The Block IIR-M satellite launched on September 26, 2005, became usable on Dec. 16 at 22:30 UT. It is named PRN # 17 and is positioned in slot C4.

Russia launched three GLONASS satellites on Dec. 25, 2005. Two of the satellites are the new GLONASS-M models. The satellites were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. When these three satellites are put into service, there will be 16 satellites in the GLONASS constellation.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC) launched the first Galileo demonstrator satellite on Dec. 28, 2005. Named GIOVE-A, this satellite was successfully launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

NOAA's UFCORS Server Delivers 2-millionth GPS Data Package

In November 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) User-Friendly CORS (UFCORS) server delivered its 2-millionth GPS data package. Since it began operating in November 1998, local GPS users have been accessing blocks of GPS data recorded by the Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) network through the UFCORS web utility. Users apply the data to determine precise positional coordinates for locations where they have collected corresponding GPS data.

Each package delivered by UFCORS contains GPS data recorded at a CORS site for a time interval of one or more hours, together with official positional coordinates and descriptive information for the site. Each package also includes corresponding orbital information for the GPS satellites. Users typically receive requested data packages within a few minutes after hitting the submit button on the UFCORS web page.

The UFCORS web utility is located online at www.ngs.noaa.gov/CORS/download1/. Cur-rently, UFCORS is distributing an average of more than 2,000 GPS data packages per day. NOAA estimates that UFCORS distributed more than 600,000 data packages in 2005 alone.