The Barry M. Goldwater Range, located in southern Arizona, is a state-of-the-art training range used by the Air Force and Marine Corps to practice aerial gunnery, rocketry, electronic warfare and tactical maneuvering. Nearby Luke Air Force Base in Glendale is home of the 56th Fighter Wing, which trains aircrews in the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Although the land has been used for 70 years as a military reservation, a boundary survey of the entire range had never been performed.
In 2010, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Mobile District, embarked on a comprehensive project to survey the region. The survey would include 215 perimeter miles and a little over 1.7 million acres of bombing range currently in use. The project would also include establishing a 5.5-mile exterior boundary for Luke Air Force Base Auxiliary Field No. 1 and a 9-mile exterior boundary for Gila Bend Auxiliary Field in nearby Gila Bend, Ariz., which is used by Luke Air Force Base aircraft and units from other nearby bases as an emergency landing facility.
USACE retained Merrick & Company to perform the survey work. It was the largest boundary survey ever handled by the firm and one of the largest boundary surveys in the United States.
The range included target areas, battlefield simulations, buildings, towers and transmitters. Additionally, a highway and a railroad both ran north-south through the range; information from the federal registry provided some of the needed data to document those locations. Research for historical surveys was performed in each respective county along with research of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) right-of-way and the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way at the northwest corner of the boundary. Highway and railroad right-of-way maps that were found during the research were of no help in determining the ownership of the railroad. Historical documents in the railroad museum in Ajo, Ariz., revealed that it was owned by a mining company; however, the current railroad owner was unable to provide deeds or right-of-way maps. An as-built field survey was necessary to define the right-of-way location. Maps and documents that were not filed at county offices were obtained from the engineering department at Luke Air Force Base.
Geographic Coordinate Database (GCDB) coordinates were used to provide initial monument search locations, with the coordinates uploaded into GPS controllers for daily searches to keep field personnel on track. Autonomous positions typically got the crews within 25 to 50 feet of the monument locations. Overall, monuments from 1892 to the 1940s were recovered over most of the project, and a combined effort with the BLM set the three miles of boundary that had never been surveyed.
After the boundary monuments had been surveyed, the next step was networking National Geodetic Survey (NGS) “0” order control over the expanse of the project to develop convenient project control for regular base station occupation. The NGS horizontal control chosen yielded very good relational accuracy. A primary control point was occupied daily in conjunction with a secondary control point to promote efficiency and maintain tolerable loop closures.
Access to these points provided a challenge. Large portions of the area are actively used for military training. Coordination with bombing range personnel on a daily basis was imperative. Satellite phones, radios, and a leapfrogging style kept both survey crews in contact with each other and allowed efforts to be coordinated to accomplish the survey.
Access into many areas was difficult, and daily strategies were developed to help maintain efficiency. Using a combination of field methods along with a variety of modes of transportation ensured the success of the project. Monthly progress reports were sent to the USACE Mobile District.
Back in the office, the required tasks were also daunting. Each night, the surveyors in the field scanned and electronically transferred their field notes and photos to Merrick’s Colorado office. Evaluation of the boundary data had to keep up with field progress. As the field data for a complete township was received, the survey technicians began building the AutoCAD files for each respective township. Skeleton drawings detailing the as-measured monument relationship to the record measurements were evaluated by the professional land surveyor (PLS) to determine acceptance. Additional evidence was needed in some instances to determine positions. Many locations were represented by found General Land Office (GLO)/BLM monuments, state highway right-of-way monuments and/or Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way monuments. Found evidence included stones with grooves on the faces or notches on the edges, remnants of wood stakes in or around mound of stones, 4 x 4-inch wood posts with markings, and bare mounds of stones or rebar/pipes with wired brass/aluminum washers attached with respective registered land surveyor numbers.
The geometrical layout for State Highway No. 85, which transverses the bombing range, was designed from highway right-of-way maps. Due to different and multiple generation highway right-of-way monuments found during the field process, certain areas along the highway right-of-way geometry conflicted with these monuments. The team coordinated with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and was able to make decisions and resolve conflicts.
Requirements on the deliverables from the client included a report of survey, record of survey plats, digital survey mark forms (monument record with photos) for all monuments found or set along the boundary, scanned or digital field notes, Excel spreadsheet digital files on all boundary corners and control points, metadata files adhering to current FGDC standards and GIS shape files of the boundary and corner point entities, scanned or digital copies of all reference documents that support the survey process, and evidence of recorded survey plats at appropriate county clerk and recorder offices. Data acquisition was completed in mid-April 2011, with electronic deliverables sent to the client in early May 2011.
“So many things [could have gone] wrong due to the location (active bombing range, potential for unexploded ordinance) and natural environment of the survey,” says Mike McBurney, PLS, CFedS, contracts administrator for surveying and mapping within the Spatial Data Branch of the USACE Mobile District. “Merrick’s crews were able to complete this survey in very challenging terrain without any significant problems.” He was particularly impressed with the team’s coordination with the adjoiners, calling it “exceptional,” and he pointed out that although the sheer number of monuments set and documented (every half mile) was a challenge, Merrick “did very well accomplishing this task.”
The overall success of this boundary survey was due to the daily strategies in the field and in the office for achieving and maintaining high efficiency during production.
Project ScopeBarry M. Goldwater Range, Southern Arizona
• 215 perimeter miles and a little over 1.7 million acres of bombing range currently in use
• On the western side, the range is within 20 miles of the Mexican border
• The area is a diverse desert terrain ranging from sandy flatlands to basalt covered mountains
• The site involves three counties (Maricopa, Pima, and Yuma Counties)
Gila Bend Auxiliary Field, Gila Bend, Ariz.
• 9-mile exterior boundary; 2,002 acres
Luke Air Force Base Auxiliary Field No. 1, Glendale, Ariz.
• Exterior boundary of 5.5 miles; 1,060.5 acres
Overall, the Project Required:
• Discovery of and placement of monuments at 840 locations for all three areas
• Coordination with multiple entities and individuals including:
– Michael McBurney, USACE, Mobile District
– Charlotte D. Bailey, Chief, Major Command Transaction Branch, US Air Force
– Luke Air Force Base representatives
– Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Office
– Bureau of Land Management, Yuma District Office
– Arizona Department of Transportation
– Union Pacific Railroad
– Ajo Railroad Museum
– Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, AZ
– Federal Aviation Administration
– Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge