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Surveyors pass half-done benchmark

Ryan Miller and Mike Branham. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Sarah Smith

They’re not quite at the finish line but they’re two-thirds of the way through a monumental task.

Then the real work begins.

Hubbard County surveyors Mike Branham, Ryan Miller and a summer part-timer embarked on a mission to locate, re-locate or otherwise establish 3,677 corners in Hubbard County.

The survey crew calls this re-monumentation.

The tedious work entails surveying every corner and placing a permanent monument to mark the spot. Their work has made property disputes easier to solve and private surveyors can use the information in their work.

In the 1860s and 1870s, the U.S. government went through the area establishing a nationwide survey. At that time actual trees were used as mileposts. Many of those “bearing trees” have since died or fallen down. They are generally well marked and can still be seen today.

“We’d like to be notified before they fall down,” Branham said.

The ground monuments make more sense from a weather perspective. They can be relocated through GPS coordinates if buried by debris.

Normally the crew can set more than 100 monuments a year, which they did this year, but in 2012 pipeline work slowed that progress.

Miller said his team still set 117 new corners.

In a report Tuesday to the Hubbard County board, Miller updated commissioners on their progress.

More than 2,500 corners have GPS coordinates for their final locations. Hubbard County maintenance workers asked for or reported another 45 new coordinates in 2012.

More than 250 certified corners still need coordinates. Those are located in swamps and thick stands of pines.

Hubbard County worked with another surveying company to establish a route that 52 miles of Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline will eventually be built on. For that job, the crews had to establish 76 corners. That usually entails clearing brush and an occasional tree.

The Hubbard County crew also surveyed the boundary between Clay and Clover Townships for Skunk Lake residents and several proposed timber cuts.

And there’s the more typical surveys done for new subdivisions or easements.

A century ago crews would trudge through the woods, hauling a transit and a 100-foot chain over the countryside, establishing bench marks.

Branham and Miller have found some of those old marks to be quite accurate – and some not so.

The real work has already begun, maintaining the corners already set.

“That’s so we don’t ever have to do this job again,” Branham said.

Specifically, 1,201 corners remain.

“Those are the most difficult to get to,” Miller said, dispelling any myth that they saved the best for last.

Miller says he believes in his lifetime, he will see an end to the project that was begun 39 years ago.

“Anything we set now has GPS coordinates,” he said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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