Point of Beginning

Newsline: November 2009

November 1, 2009
BLM Marks Updates to Manual; Santa Clara County Complies With Court Decision on Geodata Release; Army Geospatial Center Becomes Major Subordinate Command Center and FEMA Ends Paper Flood Insurance Rate Maps



BLM Marks Updates to Manual

The Bureau of Land Management held a celebration on Sept. 24, 2009, in Washington, D.C., to mark the completion of the 2009 edition of the “Manual of Surveying Instructions.” The event, which coincided with the American Congress on Surveying & Mapping Lobby Day 2009, culminated years of work and launched extensive interagency and public outreach efforts to educate and inform users about the new edition, officials said.

The “Manual of Surveying Instructions” describes how cadastral surveys of federal lands are made in conformance to statutory law and its judicial interpretation. The updated manual is now consistent with current legislation, judicial and administrative decisions, BLM policy and procedural changes, and current surveying practice. The hard-bound manual is the standard to which 256 federal authority surveyors, 278 certified federal surveyors, and approximately 50,000 private surveyors adhere in conducting surveys. The manual was last issued in 1973. According to BLM officials, the updated manual is expected to be available in late 2009 or early 2010.

Santa Clara County Complies With Court Decision on Geodata Release

After a three-year legal battle, California’s Santa Clara County provided a copy of its GIS parcel basemap data to the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) in compliance with the state’s Public Record Act (PRA). According to Bruce Joffe, GISP, founder of the Open Data Consortium project and technical advisor to CFAC, the county shipped four disks with the requested data on Aug. 26, 2009, at a cost of $3.10 per disk plus shipping. The county had been selling its geodata for $158,000.

The lawsuit, filed by the California First Amendment Coalition in October 2006, sought access to the parcel basemap a year after California’s attorney general wrote a legal opinion that digital parcel data is public record. The county used many arguments to preserve its ability to sell its data, including homeland security, copyright and public interest. However, decisions from the Santa Clara County Superior Court and the California Court of Appeal affirmed that public agencies are required to provide their geodata in accordance with the PRA. In general, agencies can neither charge more than the direct cost of duplication nor can they restrict how a requestor can use or redistribute the data. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior Court decision that both the Critical Infrastructure Information Act and the accompanying Department of Homeland Security regulations do not shield county parcel basemaps from public scrutiny. The Court of Appeal was also clear that California government entities do not have the right to use copyright law to restrict disclosure or impose limitations on the use of their data. The PRA requires the county to pay attorneys fees and costs incurred by CFAC in asserting its legal right to the data.

For more information or to read the court decision, visit www.opendataconsortium.org. A more-detailed account by Joffe is featured in this month’s Opinion blog at www.pobonline.com.

Army Geospatial Center Becomes Major Subordinate Command Center

The U.S. Army Geospatial Center (AGC), formerly known as the Engineer Research and Development Center’s Topographic Engineering Center (ERDC-TEC), became a Major Subordinate Command center under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) effective Oct. 1, 2009. “I view this as the nation’s geospatial center,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp, chief of engineers. “What you [AGC] are able to give the soldier is amazing. With study, and with your products, they can understand the terrain where they’re going to operate so much better. We’re so much better as an Army because of what you do.”

The AGC will continue ERDC-TEC’s legacy of providing timely, accurate, geospatial support and products to warfighters. However, it will expand its mission to support Army Battle Command systems by facilitating the dissemination of relevant geospatial information to every level across the dynamic battlefield environment. Additionally, the center will coordinate, integrate, and synchronize geospatial information requirements and standards across the Army as well as develop and field geospatial enterprise-enabled systems and capabilities to the Army and the Department of Defense. For more information, visit www.agc.army.mil.

FEMA Ends Paper Flood Insurance Rate Maps

FEMA discontinued the distribution of paper maps effective Oct. 1, 2009. The paper maps have been replaced with Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs). FEMA officials say the more environmentally friendly DFIRMs will improve the usability of FEMA’s flood hazard data and provide users with a more-powerful tool for insurance activities and flood risk management.


Associate Editor Wendy Lyons compiles “Newsline.” Contact her at 248/786-1620 or lyonsw@bnpmedia.com. Visit www.pobonline.com for daily news updates.