Point of Beginning

Newsline: February 2010

February 1, 2010
Expedition Locates 24 of Ellicott’s Original Mounds; Wisconsin Bill Requires QBS Process for Surveyors and Other Consultants; URISA Grants New GISPs Free Membership and more.

Concrete mound markers were supplied by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for the workshop. 


Expedition Locates 24 of Ellicott's Original Mounds

Surveyors located at least 24 mounds on the historic Ellicott Line during a December field seminar held in Andalusia, Ala. Prior to the December 2009 event, only two of the original mounds demarcating the 124-mile line had been located. 

The event was a joint effort between Auburn University (AU), which sponsored the seminar and developed a computer program to convert perches, chains, feet and meters into latitude and longitude values; the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which provided concrete monuments and logistical support; and co-facilitators Milton Denny, PLS, POB columnist and part-time AU instructor, and associate professor Dr. Larry Crowley, PE, of the AU Department of Civil Engineering. Participants earned 12 continuing education credits for a mandatory two days of participation.

The latitude/longitude, written in orange, is from a handheld GPS reading taken at Mound 335. The mound was found immediately above the estimated location.

The event began with a seminar in which 40 licensed surveyors representing Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and Georgia were given an overview of the mound line and provided with locations of known mounds. Afterward, six crews set out to locate the mounds based on GPS information provided by Denny. “Those mounds couldn’t have been found without the combination of old and new technology,” Denny said, explaining that most of the original 4- to 5-foot piles of earth are now only 4 to 6 inches high. Denny spent three years prior to the event developing a system to find the most-likely locations of the mounds utilizing recently discovered old maps and plats and modern GPS technology as well as perches, chains, feet and meters.

Denny is waiting for confirmation from two of the crews, but he said he expects the final number of confirmed mounds to be around 40. Future expeditions to locate mounds are being planned. Once complete, Denny estimates the pro bono survey of the Ellicott line to have a value of $1.5 million.

For a detailed history of the Ellicott Line, read POB’s October Digital Edition Exclusive “31 Degrees of Latitude”by Crowley and Denny online at www.pobonline.com. (Click on Digital Edition Archives.) For more information on this and future seminars, contact Denny at mdenny5541@aol.

Wisconsin Bill Requires QBS Process for Surveyors and Other Consultants

A bill requiring the use of a qualifications-based selection (QBS) process for certain public works consulting contracts was introduced in the Wisconsin Senate in January. A consultant is defined under Senate Bill 442 as a person who provides architectural, engineering, land surveying, photogrammetric, professional geology or landscape architecture services.

Projects affected by the bill are defined as those in which any local governmental unit requires a consultant; relates to the planning, study, design or construction inspection or administration of the public work or building, including the inspection of local bridges; has a total estimated project cost of at least $250,000; and will be funded to some extent by the state. 

The bill requires a local governmental unit to create a procedure to solicit proposals from consultants for projects. The proposals may not contain any information on proposed fees, level of efforts, or costs. The proposals must contain certain information about the consultants, including specialized experience, capabilities and technical competence; their quality of work and ability to meet schedules; and their proposed method of project management. The local governmental unit must rank the consultants based on the consultants’ qualifications as described in their proposals.

The local governmental unit must enter into negotiations with the highest ranked consultant to finalize the terms of the contract. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the local governmental unit must enter into negotiations with the next highest ranked consultants, in order of their ranking, until a contract is finalized. If no agreement is reached with any of the consultants, the local governmental unit may retain a consultant for the project under any other allowable method. Additionally, a local governmental unit may enter into a contract with a consultant with whom it has an established relationship and who has previously provided similar services, without evaluating proposals from other consultants. The full text of the bill is available at www.legis.state.wi.us/2009/data/SB-442.pdf.

URISA Grants New GISPs Free Membership

The URISA board of directors voted in January to award new GIS professionals (GISP) a complimentary one-year membership valued at $175. The title of GISP is granted by the GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) to those people who have met the educational, professional experience, and professional contribution requirements as set out by the GISCI. Beginning with the December 2009 class, all new GISPs who are not already URISA members are eligible for this free membership offer. For more information, visit www.urisa.org.

Surveyors Advisory Board Launched in California

The Land Surveyors Advisory Council on Technical Standards (LSACTS) was formally announced in January. Comprising an 11-member executive board, LSACTS is modeled as an advisory “think tank.” Its stated purpose is to research, summarize, debate and publish its findings on various topics relating to the principles and applications of the Professional Land Surveyors’ Act and the California Subdivision Map Act. It also provides peer-to-peer advice to other members of the profession. For more information, visit www.lsacts.com.

Three Glonass Satellites Launched

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, launched a Proton rocket carrying three Glonass-M satellites into orbit on December 14 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in central Kazakhstan, according to RIA Novosti. This was the year’s final launch, bringing the total number of Glonass satellites on orbit to 22, including one in decommissioning phase and three undergoing maintenance. The three Block 41 Glonass-M satellites, 730, 733, and 734, have been placed in Plane 1 and are in the commissioning phase at the time of publication. According to Roscosmos, communications has been established with all of the satellites, and performance is nominal. The next Glonass launch is scheduled for a Feb. 11–20, 2010, window.

USGS Announces a New Generation of Maps

The U.S. Geological Survey formally introduced its next-generation mapping product, US Topo, at its 125th Anniversary of Topographic Mapping celebration in December 2009. Digital US Topo maps are designed to look, feel and perform like traditional paper topographic maps while providing technical advantages that support faster, wider public distribution and enable basic, on-screen geographic analysis for users. “These digital maps can be as simple or as sophisticated as the need dictates, easily customized on the spot,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt.

A US Topo map includes all of the content of its prototype, Digital Map – Beta, which has been available since June 2009, plus integrated contours and hydrographic features. Arranged in the familiar 7.5-minute quadrangle format, each map quadrangle is constructed in GeoPDF format from key layers of geographic data found in The National Map, including orthoimagery, roads, geographic names, topographic contours, and hydrographic features. US Topo users can turn geographic data layers on and off as needed, zoom in and out to highlight specific features or see a broader context, and print the maps in their entirety or in customized sections on a wide variety of printing devices. File size for each digital US Topo 7.5-minute quadrangle is approximately 15-20 megabytes, which is convenient for most computer users. US Topo maps, as well as electronic analytical tools, are available as a free download.

As of December 21, more than 885 US Topo maps have been loaded to the Map Locator of the USGS Store, according to the National Geospatial Technical Operations Center. Kansas is the first US Topo state available to be followed by New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Texas. As the US Topo product evolves, the USGS will provide digital, historical versions of USGS topographic map quadrangles and incorporate additional geographic data layers from The National Map. For more information, visit www.nationalmap.usgs.gov/ustopo

FEMA to Re-Issue Preliminary Flood Maps for Skagit County, Wash.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Dec. 23, 2009, that it intends to re-issue the recently released preliminary flood insurance maps for Skagit County, Wash. “FEMA’s intention is to produce the most-accurate flood insurance maps possible,” said Dennis Hunsinger, acting regional administrator for FEMA Region 10. “We regret the problems in these maps and will resolve these issues before the maps are finalized.”

Preliminary maps are provided in advance to communities for review and assistance in catching technical and mapping issues before the product enters the official appeals process. Local government officials brought mapping and cartography issues to the attention of the agency. According to FEMA officials, the agency remains confident in the underlying flood hazard data, but the issues brought forward are troubling and warrant the reissuance of the maps.

Once maps are accurately redrawn, FEMA will release a revised preliminary flood insurance map for Skagit County and restart the public feedback process. When finalized, the maps will be used for flood insurance, land-use planning and development decisions.

WorldView-2 High-Resolution Satellite Imagery Now Available

DigitalGlobe announced in January that its latest high-resolution satellite, WorldView-2, achieved full operational capability. Imagery from the satellite is available to global resellers, partners and customers. Launched Oct. 8, 2009, WorldView-2 joins DigitalGlobe’s existing submeter satellites, QuickBird and WorldView-1, on orbit. WorldView-2 significantly expands the constellation’s collection capacity, enabling an annual imaging capacity equivalent to three times the area of Rarth’s land mass and allows for intraday revisit. WorldView-2 is also the industry’s first commercial high-resolution satellite to offer eight multispectral bands, which provide more spectral information and allow for greater analysis capabilities, including improved feature identification and change detection. For more information, visit www.digitalglobe.com.

China to Launch First Civil HD Survey Satellite in 2011

China will launch its first civil high-definition survey satellite in 2011, according to an announcement by State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM) officials in December. The satellite, ZY 3, will be launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province on a Long March 4B carrier rocket, said Xu Deming, director of the SBSM. The satellite will operate in a sun-synchronous orbit about 506 kilometers in altitude and produce seamless imagery of the Earth’s surface from 84 degrees south latitude to 84 degrees north latitude. The satellite will be used for map updates, land resources investigation and monitoring, disaster prevention and reduction as well as serve the agricultural, environmental, urban planning, traffic and national defense sectors, Xu said. The launch date was not disclosed.