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Utility Mapping in the Intermountain Region

Intermountain Support Office
Kerri Mich
A few years ago at a park we shall leave unnamed, a new visitor center was being built. The facility manager needed to tie the visitor center into existing water and other utility systems. But where were they? The former facility manager had worked at the park for many years, but had retired without leaving any current maps of the system. The park managers asked the retired employee if he could tell them where the water line ran. He told them it ran right alongside the access road. So they got out some equipment and started digging. They found many things, including archeological sites for which they had to fill out paperwork, but no water line. So the managers went back and told the retired employee that they could not find any sign of the water line. The retired employee thought about it and said, “Oh yeah! That’s because they moved the road!”

Mapping utilities in National Monuments by utilizing Global Positioning Systems (GPS) has become an increasing part of the workload for the National Park Service Intermountain GIS Center. Across the National Park Service, facility managers and maintenance crews are getting to retirement age. These are the people who know where the water and sewer lines run through the monument, and know the history of installation of various utility systems, generally because they installed them themselves. Official park service maps of utilities, called “as-builts,” are generally idealized maps, sometimes printed before the systems were actually installed, and can be 20 to 30 years (or more) out of date.

The Intermountain GIS Center is trying to capture the knowledge of these facility managers and maintenance crews by following them while they delineate utility features with Trimble ProXR GPS Systems. These systems have an accuracy of one meter, which we have found to be sufficient. Using a data dictionary, the GPS person can capture the maintenance person’s comments about things like pipe type, width, when the feature was installed, where a leak has been fixed, etc. Once initial maps have been produced, the maintenance people can check them for accuracy and make additional notations. This procedure has been used in Aztec Ruins National Monument, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, El Morro National Monument, Fort Union National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, and Salinas Pueblo National Monument.
April 08, 2004