Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Visalia Social Security Building Being Built on Flood Zone

Posted: May 6, 2009 10:37 PM PDT on

View Video: New Visalia Social Security Building Being Built on Flood Zone

By: Ashley Ritchie

Steve Nelson opened his newspaper Wednesday morning and realized he has something in common with the federal government; they both now have property in a flood zone.

"Three days after we have a city council meeting and we have 300-some people show up to voice their opinion, all of the sudden we find out about the social security building. I find that kind of, really ironic," Nelson said.

General Services Administration officials gave the go-ahead in September 2008 for a new social security office, six months after FEMA released Visalia's re-zoned flood maps.

"The federal government, under presidential directive, says that federal offices can't be located in flood zones," Alex Peltzer, Visalia City Attorney, said.

The social security office is being built right now at 1901 E. Noble, right across the street from Wal-Mart.

Originally, the General Services Administration planned to build the office at Lovers Lane and Tulare. But they chose the Noble site because it wasn't in a flood plain.

But with the new maps, the Noble location is now on a flood plain and the first site isn't and never was.

"The federal government may be in a position of having to get its own flood insurance. I don't know how that works between agencies. But that's what would happen with other people," Peltzer said.

"I'm gonna watch vigilantly to see if magically they become out of the flood zone," Nelson said.

In the meantime, the 8,900 residents now in the flood plain must start paying flood insurance by June 16th.

Steve Nelson says he hears the concerned stories every day.

"He says I'm upside down. What am I supposed to do? It's hard to look a man in the eye and say, I'd love to help you and I'm trying to help you. But in all honesty, I don't know if anybody cares," he said.

City officials say they're looking at several options for residents right now, including examining each individual property to see if it's really in a flood zone.

But until then, they're urging those affected residents to have flood insurance secured by June 16th.

The parcel of land the new social security building is being built on is being leased to the government by the southern California based Imperial Group.

City officials say they're not sure if the group even knew about the flood maps when the site was chosen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Four men take a chance on new Visalia company

Four men take a chance on new Visalia company
Visalia Times-Delta - Visalia,CA,USA
BY JORDAN RIGHI • For the Times-Delta • February 24, 2009

After surviving three rounds of economic layoffs, four men decided to leave the civil engineering firm of Quad Knopf and start their own company.

Matt Ainley, David De Groot, Randy Wasnick and Craig Hartman opened 4 Creeks Inc. last June, setting up shop at 3643 W. Oakridge Ave. in the Demaree Square West business center on Goshen Avenue in Visalia.

"Everyone thought we were a little crazy and that our timing was a little nuts," said Ainley, 30, the eldest of the four men and the firm's president.

But their decision seems to be working out well. The company is showing signs of growth and now employs 11, three on a part-time basis.

As it turns out, the dark economic cloud has had a silver lining for 4 Creeks: The firm has been able to take advantage of the downsizing of others. Ainley said he has been able to pick up slightly used equipment at steep discount prices, much of it from Internet auction sites like eBay.

"People have a lot of extra equipment that they're trying to shed," he said

The cost of hiring also is a little lower than normal, he said. The firm has hired former Quad Knopf workers who've been laid off, Ainley said.

He said the firm's business plan is divided into four areas, based on the interests and specialties of the partners. Ainley is primarily responsible for land development and public works; De Groot handles agriculture and dairy; Wasnick handles land surveying; and Hartman is responsible for energy and environmental.

The firm is busy working with dairy clients to develop waste-management plans required by the state.

Monday, February 9, 2009

SJV-CLSA February Meeting

Due to some scheduling conflicts the February meeting for the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the California Land Surveyor's Association will be held NEXT WEEK on Thursday, February 19, 2008, at 6:30 pm, at Luna's Pizzeria and Italian Resturant located at 349 Pollasky Avenue (between 3rd & 4th) in Clovis. There will not be a speaker or presentation this month, but we plan to make up for that in the coming months.

So to recap: there will NOT be a Chapter meeting this week on our regularly scheduled second Thursday. Our Chapter meeting will be held NEXT WEEK on February 19, 6:30pm, at Luna's Pizzeria in Old Town Clovis.


The CLSA State Office has been contacted by various High Schools throughout the State regarding their Career Fairs. Within the San Joaquin Valley Chapter, various the High Schools have expressed an interest in having a CLSA representative visit their schools for their Career Fair. We are looking for volunteers to man a booth at these career fairs to promote the land surveying profession. CLSA Central Office will provide supplies for a tabletop display as well as handout material (DVDs, brochures, etc.).

If you would like to volunteer, please contact the SJV-CLSA Chapter President, Kevin Nehring, at or 559-297-4200 x8, or contact Crissy Willson at the CLSA Central Office at 707-578-6016.


Upcoming events -

Thur., Feb. 19, 6:30pm - SJV-CLSA Chapter Meeting
Where: Luna's Pizzeria and Italian Resturant, 349 Pollasky Avenue, Clovis, CA

Thur., Mar. 12 - SJV-CLSA Chapter Meeting
Where: TBA
Speaker: TBA

Mar. 15-21 - National Surveyor's Week

Mar. 28-Apr. 1 - CLSA Conference 2009

Thur., Apr. 9, 6:30pm - SJV-CLSA Chapter Meeting
Where: TBA
Speaker: Aaron R. Smith, PLS - 2009 CLSA Pres. Elect
Topic: CLSA Stuff. Bring your questions, comments & concerns.


For more information:
visit the Chapter website at:
visit the Chapter calendar at:
or contact the Chapter at

Friday, February 6, 2009

Surveyors face punishment for elevation errors

Surveyors face punishment for elevation errors
February 6, 2009 - 5:52 PM
KFDM-TV - Jessica Holloway

KFDM News (Beaumont, TX) has learned two Southeast Texas surveyors who shot elevations of homes in West Jefferson County could face punishment for how they carried out their work. The Texas Board of Land Surveying met in Austin Friday.
It's decided two Southeast Texas surveyors violated at least five board rules.

The surveyors filed elevation certificates for families living in the Labelle-Fannett area of West Jefferson County. After Hurricane Ike, homeowners in that area found out their elevations were off, in some cases three feet lower than they thought. As a result, many people in Country Road Estates had several feet of water inside their homes. Some lost everything.

A few homeowners have filed civil lawsuits against their surveyors. They want to recoup the 25% of the lost value of their homes not covered by FEMA.

Monday two staff members from the board will decide the appropriate disciplinary action. That could include a fine or the maximum penalty, losing their licenses. The two surveyors have the option of telling their side of the story before the Texas Attorney General. The board will have the final say.

As for any other property owners who file a complaint against a surveyor, those complaints will be investigated by the board and if it rules against the surveyers, the same range of punishment is guaranteed.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jefferson County homeowner claims incorrect survey caused home to flood

As posted in the Beaumont Enterprise, February 05, 2009
February, 5, 2009

James Majors' Hillebrandt Acres cabin would not have flooded if surveyors who established his property's elevation had done their homework, the homeowner said.

Majors, 43, of Port Neches, will present a complaint against Soutex Surveyors, Inc. of Port Arthur to the Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying for issuing an incorrect elevation certificate for his home on Hillebrandt Bayou in 2003.

The surveyors acted in good faith, the company president said, but the error may be rooted in a natural phenomenon discovered last year.

"I want someone to hold up to their objectives, to say, 'I made a mistake'," Majors said by phone Thursday.

In 1996, Majors hired Soutex to complete a property survey for his cabin in the Hillebrandt Acres subdivision near the LaBelle area in unincorporated Jefferson County. Before building a cabin on the property along Hillebrandt Bayou, he wanted to find the property's elevation above sea level so he could research the historical floods that hit the area and build above that point.

The survey placed his yard at 10 feet above mean sea level, according to his complaint, and in 2003, he began building almost 3 feet higher than that to rise above the historical flood level in the area.

In July 2003, Soutex created Majors a final elevation certificate he could file with Jefferson County to receive final permits, placing his home's bottom floor at 12.9 feet.

At that level, the Hurricane Ike storm surge should have hit more than a foot below the cabin's bottom floor.

Majors contacted Soutex to ask about the discrepancy, and the survey company's president, Anthony Leger, told him about other homes in the Country Road Estates area across Hillebrandt Bayou that had similar problems.

Dozens of homes in the LaBelle area were lower than their elevation certificates said, and after the storm, many were too low to get building permits from Jefferson County, because they were below the 100-year flood plain. Majors' home was above the 100-year level. Still, the storm surge pushed more than a foot of water into his house.

For 30 years, property elevation in the area of Country Road Estates and other homes in the LaBelle area had been produced using data from a federal monument - a brass disk - placed a little more than two miles northwest of Port Acres, Leger wrote in a letter to Jefferson County in May 2008.

That monument, placed by the National Geodetic Survey in 1954, placed the monument's elevation at 6.32 feet above sea level, Ronnie Taylor of the National Geodetic Survey told The Enterprise in late December.

Federal surveyors checked the area again in the early 1980s for FEMA flood maps, and the benchmark's elevation was 3.1 feet lower.

Professional surveyors cannot take the time to establish mean sea level each time they shoot a survey, Leger said, so they rely on government data from the hundreds of thousands of benchmarks across the country. The benchmark's level remained too high in the government record.

Leger said the benchmark's level could account for incorrect elevations throughout LaBelle. When he learned of the problem in spring 2008, he wrote a letter to the county.

The benchmark's elevation change may be caused by subsidence - the sinking of soil often caused by oil drilling or groundwater pumping in an area. A 1983 FEMA flood study said in the area where the benchmark lay, "the subsidence is about 3 feet."

Majors said the surveyors should have known about the benchmark's elevation change and should have not have used data from the benchmark that changed.

"I did my homework (while building the house)," Majors said. "Why didn't they do theirs?"

Surveyors rely on published data from the monuments, Leger said, unless the benchmarks prove incorrect.

"It's a normal practice, yes, sir," Leger said. "It's just unfortunate that LaBelle is in that situation."

The surveying board will meet at 9 a.m. in Austin and may issue its findings at a later meeting. The board can revoke or suspend surveyors' licenses.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

California budget woes whipsaw highway contractors

Posted in the Sacramento Bee
By Jim Wasserman and Jon Ortiz
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 | Page 9A

Excuse some mood swings in the construction industry.

On a good day, President-elect Barack Obama says he will spend untold billions of dollars on infrastructure work to wake up the U.S. economy.

Then, on a bad one, California officials say they'll cancel $5 billion worth of infrastructure projects in two weeks unless there's a fast budget fix.

"One week we're getting fantastic news and this week you wake up and it's complicated. Is it a roller coaster? Absolutely," said Diane Meehan, owner and president of Sacramento's Richard A. Heaps Electrical Contractor Inc. The company works on highway traffic lights from Merced to Oregon.

"There are a couple of things pulling against one another," said Steven Hiatt, Sacramento office director for the engineering firm Nolte Associates Inc. The firm's 500 employees operate in three states and Mexico. "The (federal) economic stimulus package tends to weigh toward some quick projects that may take place next year. But the state's budget problem tends to counter that. How that works out remains to be seen."

This can, indeed, seem like the best and worst of times for an embattled construction industry competing for fewer projects with ever-lower bids. Yet many area construction executives who work throughout California and the West say they're largely looking past the state's budget problems to a coming boom.

If the explosion of work comes "it's going to be huge for firms in the Sacramento area," said Meehan, who has 65 employees.

Collectively, Meehan, Hiatt and many others are watching as an incoming presidential administration considers massive deficit spending to rebuild the nation's bridges, highways, tunnels and schools.

Days ago, Obama promised to create millions of jobs with the "single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s." He also promised to create new jobs by upgrading schools and making buildings more energy-efficient.

Obama said that such action is necessary – and soon – to offset the loss of 2 million jobs in this recession. In California, the construction industry alone has lost 66,100 jobs in the past year – mostly in the home-building sector.

Ken Kayser, president of Sacramento-based Teichert Construction, said, "It's huge. With the private side all dried up, it really is the only game there is for companies like ours."

Teichert specializes in paving, grading and widening roads and highways from Bakersfield to Marysville. While much of its work was for housing developers during the boom, the collapse of the Central Valley housing market has heightened its need for public infrastructure jobs. The firm has about 3,000 workers.

Sacramento-based highway contractor C.C. Myers said Tuesday that building infrastructure to stimulate the economy "is good for everybody. Other people make and supply the things we need. It puts them to work, too."

But consider this, too, he said. "We need it done. We're way behind the curve in where we should be on maintaining our highways. One of the reasons it doesn't get done is because we haven't had the money for years. This infusion will help."

Myers, like Kayser, is waiting to see a game plan from the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans has outlined plans to spend $107 billion on transportation projects in the next decade.

Department spokeswoman Tamie McGowen said those plans contain the likeliest candidates for construction under a federal stimulus. For big contractors like Myers, that's a shot at projects like 550 miles of new high-occupancy vehicle lanes and 750 miles of new highway lanes.

Myers said his firm largely depends on public sector work, such as rebuilding a damaged Bay Area freeway interchange and overhauling a section of Interstate 5 last summer in Sacramento. His firm is currently building what Myers calls "the longest arch bridge in the U.S." on Highway 395 near Carson City, Nev. He employs 450 to 500 people.

While heavy construction firms await stimulus moves by the federal government, the state is proving – at least momentarily – more worrisome. Monday, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer warned the Legislature that cash is running so short that $5 billion in public works projects are threatened with a halt within two weeks.

He said that could force thousands of layoffs.

"Our ability to give our struggling economy a much-needed shot in the arm will be lost," Lockyer said.

Paul Meyer, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of California, said it's critical that California "get its act together in time" to provide matching funds for the federal stimulus. The Sacramento organization represents 1,100 private consulting, engineering and land-surveying firms in California.

"If California doesn't have the funds available to match, it could delay projects, at a minimum. We could miss out on some," he said. "It's a competitive situation between the states."


Call The Bee's Jim Wasserman, (916) 321-1102. Read his blog on real estate, Home Front, at

Monday, December 8, 2008

California Surveyor Paul Cuomo Passes

Written by Tony Cuomo (as posted in American Surveyor Magazine Online)

Paul Cuomo, PLS, of Newport Beach, California, founder of Pacific Land Seminars and owner of Paul Cuomo Press, Inc., passed away on December 2, 2008. He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in August 2008. He passed peacefully with his family by his side. Paul began his surveying career in 1958 with the California Division of Highways (Cal Trans). He became a licensed Land Surveyor in 1973 and that year started teaching boundary classes at Santa Ana Junior College. He left Caltrans in 1980 and joined the Orange County Surveyor's Office as Deputy County Surveyor. In 1985, Paul founded Pacific Land Seminars and began offering exam preparation workshops for the California Land Surveyor in Training (L.S.I.T.) and Professional Land Surveyor (P.L.S.) exams. He "retired" in 1993 to become a consultant in the boundary and mapping fields, and to focus more on surveying education. Paul was a founder and past chairman of the California Foundation for Land Surveying Education. He was a major supporter Cal Poly Pomona's efforts to obtain ABET accreditation for their 4-year Surveying option program. As a result of the Foundations efforts, over $100,000 in scholarships have been awarded to surveying students at Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Fresno. In addition to scholarship funding, the foundation also provided over $50,000 in equipment donations to the Fresno, Pomona, Santiago Canyon Community College, and San Jacinto Community College surveying programs. Along with Michael Pallamary and the late Roy Minnick, he co-authored "Advanced Land Descriptions", and authored "Surveying Principles for Civil Engineers" as well as the yet to be published "Elements of Boundary Control." He has been an Expert Examiner for the State Board of Registration, held the office of president at both the local and state level for the California Land Surveyors Association, and, through Pacific Land Seminars, has presented classes, seminars, and workshops across the United States.

Paul was born on March 23, 1937, in Brooklyn, New York. He was a devoted husband and doting father. He is survived by his wife of nearly fifty years, Peggy, by his two sons, Tom and Tony, their wives Janessa and Rachelle, and his four grandchildren, Julian, Elena, Zoe, and Cole. In his youth, Paul was a devoted Brooklyn Dodger fan. In the late fifties, he followed the team to Los Angeles, California. In spite of his team's defection, Paul loved to travel back to his native New York to take in the theater in Manhattan, and visit family & friends. He was an avid pool player where his skills earned him the moniker 'Paulie Fats' Paul played a wicked and deadly game of 9-ball. He loved music of all types and had a wonderful singing voice.

As an educator and mentor over the past four decades, Paul's passion and devotion to the advancement of surveying education has touched thousands of lives and careers. Based on his extraordinary commitment to Land Surveying education, two separate memorial funds have been set up, one through his local Orange County, California, chapter of the California Land Surveyors Association, and the second through California State University at Fresno. Donations can be made payable to either the "Paul Cuomo Memorial Scholarship Fund" (the C.L.S.A. Orange County Chapter fund) or the "Paul Cuomo Memorial Educational Fund" (the Cal State Fresno fund), and forwarded to Pacific Land Seminars, 2832 Tigertail Dr., Rossmoor, CA., 90720.

A memorial celebration is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, January 17th. Please contact,, or visit for details as they become available.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fresno State student, group honored by the U.N. and State Department

The United Nations, U.S. State Department and a West Virginia manufacturer of instruments to detect landmines have honored Fresno State senior David Biswanger and an engineering student group for raising money to help remove landmines, the manufacturer has announced.

Biswanger is president of the student chapter of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping at California State University, Fresno, which worked with the Civil & Geomatics Engineering Department at the university and several other groups on the project.

They collected more than 400 cell phones for recycling and raised more than $1,029 to buy a de-mining tool from Schonstedt Instrument Co., which also makes devices used to detect cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance.

The magnetic locator purchased through the fundraising -- and a matching tool donated by Schonstedt -- were sent to Nepal, according to the company.

Biswanger, 40, of Carmel Valley is a geomatics engineering major.

"It's nice to be honored, especially by the United Nations and State Department," he said. "It was really nice getting a letter from both those entities."

Posted in The Fresno Bee 10/29/08 23:41:17