A 488Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

I agree with the Erickson’s assessment of the BLM. They run their organization as the Supreme Authority. They have improved some in that they will now look at private surveys (may or may not use them), but they are still judge and jury.

I remember when Bill Teller was Chief of the Denver Service Center survey group in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Many surveys done, iron in the ground, and no records.

I have had interesting adventures with the BLM: corners set at a fence corner that the builder of the fence said was 200′ off because he didn’t know for sure where the line was. There was a properly marked witness tree to a quarter corner that was declared not original.

If BLM doesn’t do the survey it is wrong.
–Gil Noice, PS
Via the Internet

More on Erickson
Erickson has a good controversy going on topics that are germane to the surveying profession, but I honestly feel that his problems are localized and do not represent the surveying procedures of the entire BLM.

We see these occurrences across the country when they are parallel to fraudulent surveys. If a surveyor can’t find a few monuments in an area, many want to claim fraud and invent a method to establish the corners, usually a cut-rate method. This usually occurs because they underbid the project or did not do proper research, which can be akin to accepting a fence corner just because it falls near 2640 feet from another corner.

I believe that less than one-tenth of one percent of all GLO surveys are fraudulent nationwide. In OR/WA within the Willamette Meridian and Baseline, there are approximately 4,500 townships containing 324,000 miles of section lines and 612,000 monuments. There is one known township (Benson Syndicate) of fraudulent survey in this area. And I am sure there are a lot of townships that have monuments that are hard to find; but this doesn’t make them fraudulent.

A huge transformation occurred in the BLM when they went from Washington Office plat approval in 1983 or so to today’s process of the twelve state offices approving their own surveys under the direct authority of the Director of the BLM (not the Washington Office Cadastral Survey). This action placed the survey methodology and approval process at the local level with guidance from the Manual. It is only natural that these twelve offices don’t do things exactly the same. I believe that one office still reports the distances on their plats in chains while the rest have converted to showing them in feet.

The bottom line is that we as a profession have standards to abide by and they don’t always fit all situations. There are flaws on all sides and one has to know how to best deal with them on a case by case basis, not as a sweep of the arm (like a realtor telling a buyer what they are buying) but with due diligence and professional decisions.
–Tim Kent, PS
Via the Internet

Erickson responds to Kent
I agree with Tim’s assessment of the nonprevalence of "fraudulent" GLO surveys. However, "fictitious" GLO Field Notes are another matter, for they are present wherever the "shortcut method" was used by US Deputy Surveyors. Proportionate positions based upon fictional records are nearly as nonsensical as those based upon fraud and are equally inappropriate.

The fact that Idaho BLM is hiding its awful surveys behind the skirts of sovereign immunity might seem to be an isolated problem now. However, the end of the appeal process of Howell v. BLM is fast approaching and if this dismissal based upon sovereign immunity is upheld, then the problem becomes everyone’s.

Bilby Tower
This is a follow up to the Bart Crattie article featured in the American Surveyor that gave the details of the erecting of the last Bilby Tower at Osgood, Indiana. I had a conflict and could not be present when the crew built the tower but during that week my thoughts and prayers were with my fellow Coast Surveyors as they successfully erected the tower and as soon as possible I had to see for myself this monumental feat performed by a group of men who had long since taken off their bolt bags and put away their "S" wrenches.

The morning of October 23, 2013, I left Bordon, Indiana to see for myself this monument that had been placed at Osgood, Indiana as a tribute not only to Jasper Bilby but to the hundreds of employees and family members that had been a part of the Coast & Geodetic steel tower triangulation across the United States.

I arrived at Osgood around Noon and stopped at a local café for lunch and directions. As I pulled into the parking lot and looked west along the paved walkway marked Osgood Trails to the shinny galvanized structure standing tall in the sunlight it brought back a lot of memories of the men and families that made up a triangulation party. From a builders standpoint the site itself could not have been any better. One could drive right to it, no brush or trees to be cleared and you could have dug an anchor hole in about thirty minutes in that sandy soil.

I took Osgood Trails around the South side of the lake for a better view and paused to reflect on the activity that took place on that tower in the past. On a typical day, sometime in late afternoon a Traveall or Carryall would pull up and an Observer and a Recorder would get out of the vehicle. They would make a sketch of the site, locating and measuring the reference marks. They would also set a target on the azimuth mark.

The Recorder would attach a haul up rope to his belt and climb up to the observing platform and the observer would attach a haul up bag and the equipment needed for the observation that night.

Triangulation parties carried with them a welding trailer and were great about improvising homemade haul up winches made from a junk yard auto flywheel, starter, piece of pipe for a drum and a mechanical hand brake.

The observer would set up a collimator while the recorder would center the instrument plate and adjust the light plate on the top of the tower. The instruments were never locked down to the plate and would set in down into triangular grooves cut into the plate.

The observer would climb to the observation platform and helped erect the top of the "O" tent and sides if needed to block the wind or for warmth, set up to start turning angles to the reference marks, azimuth and any visible landmarks like radio masts, smokestacks, or water towers. Three Direct and Reverse Observations were required for these positions.

As twilight approached and you began to see the winking blinking lights on the horizon you could start turning your sixteen direct and reverse positions to the other stations visible around you. I have known this operation to take as little as an hour and a half, and I have been on station when the sun rose the next morning.

In a few days the tower would be gone and all that remained was the survey disk set in top of that concrete monument but the Osgood Bilby Tower will remain for generations to come as a monument to the men and families who dedicated their careers and lives to the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Surveys Triangulation Parties.

I climbed my first 90-foot tower in the winter of 1959. The first tower I helped build was in western Missouri 1961. The last tower I worked on was in Memphis in 1972 while in private practice, working on an airport expansion project.
–Jerry Price, PS
Via the I

A 488Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE