Legislation Affecting Surveying Professionals

With Congress officially back to work after their extended winter break, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at some important legislation that Congress will be considering in this session that will affect surveying professionals.

House Bills

H. Res. 518—Recognizing and Honoring Surveyors and National Surveyors' Week

I spoke about this resolution recently, so I won't repeat myself here. By the time you read this, the resolution should have already passed the House and Senate and will soon come up for signature by President Bush. In case you missed the recent article on this resolution or need more information, see the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping's website at www.acsm.net.

H. R. 1370—Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act of 2005

This bill was introduced by Representative Chris Cannon of Utah on March 17, 2005. It has 17 co-sponsors and is currently in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. It directs the Secretary of the Interior to develop a multipurpose cadastre of Federal real property (an inventory of real property of the Federal Government developed through the collection of geographical and digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features and boundaries of the earth and any related information) to assist with the federal land management, resource conservation, and development of real property, including any federal land which is no longer required to be owned by the Federal government.

The bill requires the Secretary of the Interior to submit a report to Congress on:

  1. the existing real property inventories or any components of any cadastre currently authorized by law or conducted by the Department of the Interior;
  2. the inventories and components that will be or will not be eliminated or consolidated into the multipurpose cadastre authorized by this legislation;
  3. the cost savings that will be achieved; and
  4. recommendations for any legislation necessary to increase cost savings and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of replacing, eliminating, or consolidating real property inventories or any components of a cadastre currently authorized by law or conducted by the Department of the Interior.

The legislation affects surveyors because it specifically calls for the use of private companies to do the surveying work. Section (D) of the bill states that state and local governments should "use contracts with the private sector, to the maximum extent practicable, to provide such products and services as are necessary to develop the cadastre." Additionally, the legislation requires contracts for surveying and mapping services to be awarded in accordance with the selection procedures in title IX of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.), in other words, the services are to be awarded using qualification-based selection.

H. R. 426—Remote Sensing Applications Act of 2005

This bill was introduced by Representative Mark Udall of Colorado on January 26, 2005 and was sent to the House Committee on Science. According the Committee Report, the need for the legislation was because "remote sensing and other geospatial information can be particularly useful to state, local, regional and tribal agencies, as well as the private sector, with respect to decision-making in areas such as land-use planning, agriculture, weather forecasting, and forest management. To date, the full range of applications for commercial and civil remote sensing and other forms of geospatial information has not been adequately explored by the public and private sectors." The legislation establishes a grant program within NASA for competitively awarded pilot projects to explore the integrated use of sources of remote sensing and other sources of geospatial information to address state, local, regional, and tribal agency needs. It authorizes $15,000,000 for each of the fiscal years 2006 through 2010 for the carrying out of the legislation.

The legislation can help get students interested in the surveying profession because it establishes an educational outreach program to increase awareness at institutions of higher education and state, local, regional, and tribal agencies of the potential applications of remote sensing and other geospatial information.

The bill will come up for consideration by the full House of Representatives shortly.

Senate Bills

S. 2005—National Flood Mapping Act of 2005

This bill was introduced by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island on November 14, 2005. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The legislation amends the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 to require the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cooperate with state and local mapping partners in establishing, updating, and maintaining flood-risk zone data and estimating the rates of loss caused by floods in flood-risk zones.

It requires specified federal agency heads to give the highest practicable priority in the allocation of manpower and other resources to the review and updating of maps in coastal areas. It requires flood insurance maps and related information to be made available on the FEMA website and in a format that is digital and geospatial data-compliant.

Additionally, the bill amends the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 to direct the Technical Mapping Advisory Counsel to make recommendations to the Director with respect to:

  1. performance metrics and milestones to effectively and efficiently map flood risk areas; and
  2. procedures for delegating mapping activities to state and local government mapping partners.
It also makes the Technical Mapping Advisory Counsel, which is now temporary, permanent.


The bill requires the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response, acting through the Director of FEMA or a successor official, to establish a program for review, updating, and maintenance of National Flood Insurance Program rate maps in accordance with this Act. Also, it requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, for purposes of the National Flood Insurance Program, to identify areas that are, or could be, affected by hurricanes.

The legislation directs the Comptroller General to review the guidance and regulations issued pursuant to Executive Order 11988 to:

  1. determine federal agency compliance with the Order; and
  2. make recommendations for restricting federal investment and assistance in floodplains.
And it directs the Secretary to publish periodically an inventory of levees in the United States.


S. 364—Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act

S. 364 was introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii on February 10, 2005 and referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It passed the Committee and will be coming up for a vote in the Senate soon.

According to the report the purpose of the legislation, it would establish within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a comprehensive federal ocean and coastal mapping program for the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that will support better conservation and management of marine resources, improve decisions in the sifting of ocean observing platforms, advance coastal and ocean science and the development of ocean exploration technology, and support vessel safety.

The need for this legislation is to map the coastal jurisdiction of the U.S. which extends 200 miles beyond its coastline and includes the U.S. Territorial Sea and EEZ. Nearly ninety percent of this area remains unmapped by modern technologies. Improved mapping technology is necessary for a number of reasons. The U.S. marine transportation system is expected to grow exponentially over the next twenty years and a backlog of required surveys is developing. According to NOAA's Office of Coast Survey, approximately 35,000 square nautical miles of navigationally significant U.S. waters have been designated as critical areas requiring updated information on depth and obstructions. Improved mapping of these waters will help to minimize maritime accidents, as well as help support the national security missions of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy estimates that there are potentially $1.3 trillion in resources in the form of oil, minerals, and sedentary species which could be available under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provisions concerning extensions of the continental shelf. Improved data and maps of the resources available on the continental shelf could support the United States in asserting jurisdictional claims to this submarine area upon its accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Currently at least ten federal agencies (including NOAA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Minerals Management Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Navy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey), in addition to coastal state and local agencies, academic institutions, and private companies, share the expensive and time-consuming responsibility of mapping, charting, and assessing living and non-living resources in U.S. waters. This creates a significant amount of overlap where different parties perform repeated surveys of the same area for different purposes. It also prevents the integration of these surveys since they differ from each other in terms of scale, resolution, projection, and reference frames. To complicate matters further, the coastal zone has the unique issue of the land-sea interface, or shoreline position, which requires seamless joining of onshore topographic maps with offshore bathymetric maps.

The bill would direct NOAA to coordinate a comprehensive federal ocean and coastal mapping program that enhances conservation and management of ocean and coastal resources, and to conduct the following activities: identify and coordinate federal shoreline, ocean, and coastal mapping activities; build expertise in mapping technologies; set standards and protocols for testing and transferring new technologies to the private sector; and archive and distribute data and specific data products for the benefit of multiple users. Ocean and coastal mapping activities covered under the bill would include the suite of existing federal activities: mapping, data processing, management, and archiving. Mapping activities are intended to include the areas and resources of the outer continental shelf and inshore areas—extending from coastal state waters to the territorial sea and the EEZ, as well as to areas of the outer continental shelf beyond the EEZ.

The bill would also establish an Interagency Committee on Ocean and Coastal Mapping composed of high-ranking officials in federal agencies engaged in ocean and coastal mapping activities, with the NOAA representative acting as chair of the committee. This committee would be required to meet on a quarterly basis, and to submit a report to Congress within 18 months after enactment of this bill, and biannually thereafter, detailing federal ocean and coastal mapping plans, efforts, and needs. Together with this committee, the Administrator of NOAA would be required to submit a plan to Congress setting forth an Integrated Mapping Initiative. This plan would be due six months from the date of enactment of this bill.

The bill provides authorization levels of $20 million for FY2006, $26 million for FY2007, $32 million for FY2008, $38 million for FY2009, and $45 million annually for FY2010 through FY2013 for NOAA to carry out the purposes of this Act. In addition, the heads of Department of Defense, Department of Interior, Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration may make available up to $10 million per fiscal year for interagency mapping activities from amounts authorized to be appropriated for such agencies.

As with all of these pieces of legislation, the private sector is expected to play a big role in carrying out the provisions of the bill.


ACSM is following and monitoring all of these bills. If you are interested in supporting them and helping them to pass, contact your Representative and ask them to support H. Res. 518, H.R. 1370 and H.R. 426 and ask your Senator to support S. 2005 and S. 364.

About the Author

  • Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci
    Laurence Socci is the chief executive manager and senior lobbyist of The CLA Group, LLC, a government consulting, lobbying, and advocacy firm in Washington, D.C., specializing in representing businesses and associations. He is also the government affairs consultant for the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM).

» Back to our March 2006 Issue