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.