Surveying, Mapping and GIS

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As I posted previously, Alabama House Bill 333 strives to allow unlicensed individuals to perform surveying in rural areas - however, quite often it's rural areas which have significant cadastral disputes, problems with records and field evidence, and so on - which all the more require professional expertise and judgement from a knowledgeable land surveyor.

To provide some additional background, the Press-Register in Alabama provides a few details on the dispute - evidently an unlicensed, retired individual with a background as a Process Engineer was seeking to offer surveying services, and was reprimanded by the Alabama licensure board. Claims have been raised that it's "impossible to get licensed" and "impossible to pay a reasonable amount" to have a surveyor retrace the boundary or help resolve disputes.

These are countered by this analysis by Greg Spies, in the following points sent out to ASPLS:

House Bill 333

1. This bill is a slap in the face of everyone who is licensed or in the process of obtaining their license;

2. Evidently this bill was introduced for the sole benefit of an individual who is not a member of the surveying profession in Alabama; this individual, a retired engineer, allegedly, has been reported to the BOL for surveying without a license;

3. HB 333 is a retaliatory bill and places the interests of one individual (who allegedly has been surveying without a license) over the interests of every surveyor in Alabama who followed the legal procedure as defined by the Code of Alabama (1975, as amended) when they obtained their license;

4. HB 333 will set the practice of surveying back 100 years or more; it eliminates professionalism in surveying;

5. HB 333 was drafted without any input or notice from the surveying profession;

6. No licensed surveyor in the State of Alabama supports this bill.

7. The concept of a less educated, less experienced person being allowed to "survey" as a "rural surveyor" is ludicrous, to wit:

a.) rural areas in Alabama comprise approximately 90% of the geographical area of the state;

b.) 90% + of our major interstate and state highways traverse rural areas;

c.) rural areas are mostly more difficult to survey than urbanized areas in that there are fewer recent recorded subdivisions in near vicinity;

d.) surveyors are required to retrace older township plats generated during the U.S. Public Land Survey- these plats are 150 - 200 years old; the physical evidence generated during the original surveys is either lost, obliterated or difficult to find (i.e., the monuments set the bearing trees called for, etc.);

e.) prior surveys (c. 1850-1950) in rural areas were generally poorly done by so-called "rural surveyors" (e.g., non-professional surveyors, engineers, land owners, farmers, etc.) who had little if no experience and education in the art & science of surveying which has caused innumerable problems that must be dealt with by the surveyor of today;

f.) if "rural surveyors" as defined by HB 333 are allowed to practice in Alabama an increase in boundary disputes and subsequent litigation will occur; most boundary disputes and litigation occurring today is because of under-educated and under-experienced "surveyors" having determined the location of a boundary by using poor methods and extremely poor professional judgment and protocol;

g.) Elevation certificates and land title surveys require a knowledgeable and experienced professional surveyor to gather the requisite data for FEMA and the Land Title professionals; These specialized types of surveys require a surveyor to be able to accurately determine difference in elevation relative to a particular datum and require a surveyor who is trained to evaluate the record evidence as it affects a property he is surveying; the "rural surveyor" would not have the skill, experience or knowledge to accomplish these complex types of surveys;

Some have said that it takes too long to find a surveyor in certain parts of Alabama; This is true and the profession needs to address this issue and provide assistance to those counties that have no resident licensed surveyors; We should identify these areas in the vicinity of our practice and periodically offer our services in those areas;

Some have said that the cost of surveying a cotton field or a pasture is too great compared to the value of the land;

It makes absolutely no sense, however, to lower the standards of the profession of surveying for the sake of expediency and expense. Surveyors generally are some of the lowest paid professionals who work within the State.

The surveying profession has steadily sought to raise the bar of the profession over the past 80 years; the legislature passed a bill that was signed into law by the governor in 1996 that requires a four year surveying degree and an additional four years of experience under a licensed surveyor for an individual to apply to take the test to obtain his license; This method of obtaining a license to survey in Alabama supercedes an apprenticeship method that required 8 years of experience under a licensed surveyor to take the test; the window to obtain a license by the former method closed Dec. 31st, 2007.

Interestingly HB 333 was filed just a few weeks after this window closed.

What we need is a bill to strengthen the penalties for someone who surveys without a license. We do not need this "dumb down bill" that would gut the existing laws on the books related to surveying;

Tell your legislators to stop HB 333 from seeing the light of day; this bill needs to be seen for what it is- a veiled attempt to assist a constituent who has broken the law.

2 Response for the " Alabama HB 333, Special Interest To Undermine Surveying "

  1. matt orrell says:

    i am a land surveyor in alabama, i think a rally in montgomery for support of the defeat of house bill 333 and senate bill 386 is in order, i think our society should arrange a day when both houses are in session and invite all professional land surveyors,geomatic graduates, geomatic students,professors, l.s.i.t.'s, interns approved for testing and supporters of our profession,to come to montgomery and show there support. this is such a disrespect to our profession and i am livid as i hope all professional surveyors should be regardless of what state you practice in because if this passes in alabama your state could be next. matt orrell

  2. Anonymous says:

    great article