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​Authored by: Tim Fassbender, PLS, CWRE, Board Member

Periodically, the Board is asked whether bathymetric surveying is the practice of land surveying, requiring a Professional Land Surveyor’s license or Professional Engineer’s license.  Using bathymetry is not, in and of itself, the practice of a licensed profession. Instead, bathymetric mapping is a tool, which can be used for activities that require licensure, and for activities that do not require licensure. Whether the surveying done with bathymetry requires OSBEELS depends on whether it falls within the statutes defining the practices of licensed surveying, and whether it then falls within a statutory exemption from licensure.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may explain it best:
Bathymetry is the study of the “beds” or “floors” of water bodies, including the ocean, rivers, streams, and lakes. The term “bathymetry”…has [generally] come to mean “submarine topography,” or the depths and shapes of underwater terrain. In the same way that topographic maps represent the three-dimensional features (or relief) of overland terrain, bathymetric maps illustrate the land that lies underwater.

Surveying under PE Registration
Under OSBEELS’s laws, using bathymetry to perform surveying:

  • To determine area or topography;
  • To establish lines, grades or elevations, or to determine or estimate quantities of materials¹  required, removed or in place; or
  • Required for design and construction layout of engineering and architectural infrastructure,

all requires the individual surveying to be a licensed Professional Engineer (see ORS 672.005(1)(c) to (f)).

Surveying under PLS Registration
Subsection (2) of the law, ORS 672.005, also describes the type of bathymetric surveying work which only a licensed Professional Land Surveyor may undertake, which includes:
(2) “Practice of land surveying” means doing any of the following
(a) Providing or offering to provide for others professional services that…involve:
(A) The making of geometric measurements and gathering of related information pertaining to:
(i) The physical or legal features of the earth;
(ii) Improvements on the earth; or
(iii) The space  above or below the earth; or
(B) The development of measurements and information described in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph into graphics, data, maps, plans, reports, descriptions, projects or other survey products.
(b) Performing geodetic surveys [marine geodesy] for others.
(c) Establishing, reestablishing or replacing boundaries or geodetic control monuments or reference  points.
(d) Locating, relocating, establishing, reestablishing or retracing any property lines or boundaries for any tract of [underwater] land… or [“bed or bank”] easement.
(e) Making any survey for the division or subdivision of a tract of land or for the consolidation of tracts of land.
(f) Locating and laying out for others alignments, positions or elevations for the construction of fixed works.
(g) Performing or offering to perform for others any investigation, interpretation or evaluation of, or any consultation about, any of the services described in paragraphs (a) to (f) of this subsection.
(h) Collecting, preparing, manipulating or modifying data related to activities described in paragraphs (a) to (f) of this subsection for others, other than acting as a scrivener.
(j) Making surveys that involve horizontal or vertical mapping control or geodetic control.

However, even if someone is using bathymetry to engage in one of the activities listed above, those activities will not require OSBEELS licensure if they fall under one of the below 18 subsections contained within ORS 672.060, activities not requiring registration.
ORS 672.060(1)
ORS 672.060(2)
ORS 672.060(3)
ORS 672.060(4)
ORS 672.060(5)
ORS 672.060(10)
ORS 672.060(11)
ORS 672.060(12)
ORS 672.060(13)
ORS 672.060(14)
ORS 672.060(16)
ORS 672.060(17)
ORS 672.060(18)
ORS 672.060(19)
ORS 672.060(20)
ORS 672.060(21)
ORS 672.060(22)
ORS 672.060(23)

Discussion Examples
One example previously discussed by the Board of how licensed surveying and exempted surveying can connect in the world of bathymetry was that of using bathymetric surveying to find underwater marine craft or sunken treasure. The Board members opined that, if bathymetric surveying was used to find a sunken ship or sunken treasure, it appeared to fall under the “depicting the distribution of natural or cultural resources, features or phenomena” exemption of ORS 672.060(18), and no OSBEELS license would be required. However, if bathymetric surveying was used to determine who owned the seabed, riverbed, or lake-bed property on which the ship or treasure rested, the exemption would not apply, and the law likely requires a PLS license.

Similarly, if a Professional Land Surveyor and a Professional Engineer were in a boat crossing a river and taking soundings to find the deepest part of the river for the best fishing spot, then their activity may fall under the exemption of ORS 672.060, and it would seem likely neither of them would need to be licensed to locate that spot in the river.  However, if the Professional Engineer used bathymetry to gather information on the riverbed topography to design a bridge for a municipal client, then no exemption appears to apply. And it is likely the Professional Engineer would need to stamp the bathymetric topo map they produced. If the Professional Land Surveyor used bathymetry to determine the thread of the river, itself used to determine the boundary location between the two land owners of both sides of the river then – again – no statutory exemption appears to apply and the Professional Land Surveyor would need to prepare a map showing the information and location, stamped by the Professional Land Surveyor.  

In conclusion, the activities surrounding Bathymetry can be confusing to the lay person and a point of argument between Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors. The Oregon Revised Statutes defining the gathering and use of information for either engineering or land surveying are clear. The confusion comes when separating bathymetric mapping activity from the purpose or use of that bathymetry. It is not bathymetry itself that requires licensure. Instead, licensure is required when the use or purpose of the bathymetric mapping requires professional registration, and determines which type of registration that is (e.g., if used for determining the location of any type of property boundaries or ownership -- then the law typically requires the gathering, mapping and determination to be performed by, or under the direct supervision of, a licensed Professional Land Surveyor).

¹ Note: the OSBEELS has not yet formally addressed the question of
whether water is a “material” within the meaning of this section of law.

Authored by: Tim Fassbender, PLS, CWRE, Board Member

For the purpose of these best practice recommendations, an “approximate corner” is an unofficial property marker set by a Professional Land Surveyor. Approximate corners are sometimes used for things like estimating construction of utilities during subdivision development or when a property owner wants to know how much room they have for landscaping purposes, etc. While land surveyors may have a good reason for setting these approximate corners, it can be confusing and damaging to property owners. This issue has been discussed in the land surveying community for decades. However, the public is not educated on the guidelines and laws that govern land surveying, and often do not understand just how “off-the-record” approximate corners are.
Best Practice Recommendation
A best practice is for Professional Land Surveyors to approach the setting of approximate corners the same way you set true corners. Take all the actions involved in making a survey that establishes a boundary corner.

The Good
Typically, when property owners hire a land surveyor to find their property corner, they depend on the land surveyor to do the necessary work to correctly locate the corner.

The Bad
However, sometimes property owners hire a land surveyor and then tell that land surveyor to simply “look for our corners so we know where they are.” This is often when an approximate corner is set. Under this second scenario, perhaps the land surveyor does not find a monument in the search location, and inserts a lath or hangs flagging at the location, for the property owner to see where the search area was and where their property corner was preliminarily located. The property owner may then decide not to pay the costs of a survey to complete the work and officially set the corners. At that point, the work stops, but the landowner believes that what the land surveyor left behind (the marker that says, “approximate corner,” flag, hub, etc.) is or has matured into their property corner.  

The Ugly
Even when a land surveyor is locating approximate corners for good reasons (e.g., to prepare for construction that will ultimately destroy any monuments set, estimating for subdivision utilities, etc.) leaving behind a marker for the approximate corner can lead the landowner to believe their corner has been established. Then the situation comes to OSBEELS attention because a neighbor hires a land surveyor to execute a true boundary survey and finds the approximate corner in gross error, resulting in a heated discussion with the neighbor, litigation, and sometimes law enforcement or worse.

To avoid the “ugly” side of surveying, and to avoid the possibility of an OSBEELS investigation, it is best to practice diligently and prudently, and avoid the trap of the “approximate corner.”

​The following rules have completed the rulemaking process and been approved for permanent rulemaking by the Board at recent meetings. The purpose of sharing these updates is to ensure registrants are aware of updated rules and practicing in a lawful manner. Visit the OSBEELS website for more information on the Board’s rulemaking process and the statutes and rules within the Board’s jurisdiction.

More detailed discussions on these rule changes can be found within the minutes of recent Board and Committee meetings.

OAR 820-010-1010
The purpose of the revisions to OAR 820-010-1010 were to clarify how to apply for the Forest Engineering examination and also to allow the Board to change or cancel an Oregon specific engineering examination administration due to a natural disaster, an emergency declaration, or at the Board’s discretion.

OAR 820-010-1020
Amendments to OAR 820-010-1020, education and experience requirements for registration as a professional engineer, were included within subsections (1), (5), and (6). Within subsection (1), amendments pertain to including a baccalaureate of engineering degree from a program recognized under the Bilateral Agreement between Engineers Canada and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as qualifying education. The proposed changes to subsection (5) updates the language regarding the NCEES Education Standard and allows an applicant, who possesses a non-ABET accredited degree and had a NCEES Credentials Evaluation that was determined to be equivalent, to qualify with four years of experience.. The proposed changes to subsection (6) allows applicants, who possess a non-ABET accredited degree and who had a NCEES Credential Evaluation that was determined to not be equivalent, to substitute professional experience when they are lacking the minimal education qualifications.

OAR 820-020-0045
The purpose of revisions to OAR 820-020-0045, obligation to not to engage in unprofessional behavior, was to provide additional definitions and clarifications of professional conduct for professional registrants. Amendments includes the addition of “, or any other person with whom the registrant interacts in a professional capacity” within subsections (1) and (2).

OAR 820-050-0010
Amendments to OAR 820-050-0010, Certified Water Right Examiner continuing professional development requirements, eliminate the “grace period” language within the rule because it is no longer offered to registrants. The amendments remove subsection (2) & (3) from the rule.

​Providing good customer service is a core value of mine. It doesn’t matter where we work, what we do, or who we serve, we all should treat each other with respect and kindness. A key aspect of customer service is understanding what matters most to your customers, and then doing what you can to provide them those services while delivering an enjoyable experience. At the OSBEELS, customer service is a focal point for all of our staff.

With that in mind, this year we sent our annual Customer Service Survey to all of our licensees asking for feedback on how well we are serving you, and what else we could do to provide better service. We asked participants to rate their experiences interacting with the Board and staff members in several areas of service provided by the agency on a scale of 1-4, in which “1” did not meet their expectations and “4” was exceptional. We received over 3,050 responses and were very pleased to gather such valuable feedback from you, our customers.

While the 1 to 4 ratings are important to provide a high-level overview of customer satisfaction, it is the individual written responses submitted by our licensees that provide us the most valuable insights as to what we can be doing better. A number of us, including myself, read every comment submitted to gather information about our customer’s experiences beyond what is captured within the rating scales. From those comments, a single theme rose to the top, which was asking us to modernize our systems from paper-based processes to offer online services.

I’m happy to say that we’ve heard your concerns and are excited to share that electronic services will be a primary function of our new system, MyOSBEELS, which will convert our existing paper-based processes to a purely online system. Scheduled to launch this summer, we’re looking forward to sharing more details about the new system with our customers in this issue of the Oregon Examiner and on our agency website.
Some results of our annual Customer Service Survey are included below.



BCD job posting 021821.jpg

The Building Codes Division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services is searching for an Electrical Engineer.

This position will serve as division’s electrical engineering expert and key electrical engineering advisor relative to the branch of engineering that deals with the technology of electricity.

For additional details, please visit:

​The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering & Land Surveying (OSBEELS) hosted the tenth annual professional Symposium on September 24-25. Like many gatherings in 2020, the Board began the year planning for an in-person event and then, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was tasked with transitioning the event to a virtual format. Thanks to tremendous event planning by staff, in addition to support from the Board, the transition was successful and the result was the highest attended Symposium to-date, as more than 430 individuals joined the virtual event from across the country.

With the transition to a virtual event, the OSBEELS determined expanding the annual professional education conference to two days would be necessary to maintain the amount of content provided to attendees in a normal year. With two days of content available, full-time attendees were eligible to earn 14 PDHs for their participation.

In their opening remarks, Board President, Daren Cone, PLS, PE, and Board Administrator, Jason Barbee, welcomed attendees to the virtual event and shared details about the (then) current openings with the Board.

The two-day program kicked off with a presentation from Cornforth Consultants’ Tom Westover, PE, on landslide trends across Oregon and how his team works to investigate, evaluate, and mitigate landslides across the Northwest region. Day 2 featured an opening presentation from PAE’s Marc Brune, PE, and ZGF’s Justin Brooks, AIA, on the PAE Living Building, which will be the world’s largest commercial-use living building once construction is complete in 2021.

Experts from the private and public sectors, academic universities, and the OSBEELS presented on projects ranging from designing communities for wildfire resilience, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Coast Survey, hydrographic surveying, Portland State University’s Viking Pavilion renovation, electronic and digital signatures, and more!

The OSBEELS would like to thank all who attended, presented, and helped to make this year’s Symposium a success. At this time, the Board and agency staff are actively planning for an in-person or virtual event in 2021. We anticipate sharing more updates with registrants in the spring of 2021.

The OSBEELS Symposium is an annual event in September that aims to bring professionals from across the region together for a day of professional education and connections.

If you’re interested in attending future Symposiums or other OSBEELS-related events, follow us on Facebook and keep an eye out for future announcements in The Oregon Examiner.

The Oregon Examiner Newsletter

 Spring 2021

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