Expanding Florida’s Vertical Network

By Alanna Layton and Kathalyn Gaither

Since the early 1970s, DEP’s Division of State Lands’ Bureau of Survey and Mapping has worked under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Ocean Survey and the National Geodetic Survey to establish vertical control benchmarks. These benchmarks are physical monuments used for comparing water or ground levels at different locations and preventing distorted data that could result in erroneous water management decisions. Since this agreement began, there have been approximately 16,500 benchmarks established throughout Florida.

In an effort to greatly expand the state’s vertical network at a low cost, the elevation surveys are funded through multiple agency contracts and conducted cooperatively between BSM, water management districts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA.

A recent bureau project established elevations for Continuously Operating Reference Stations throughout much of the state. Reference stations are primarily located at small airports within the state and consist of GPS units that collect positional data 24/7. Until recently, these stations only provided horizontal positional data but the bureaus involvement helped establish a vertical positional element as well, which enables other programs within DEP, other state agencies, local governments and private sector engineers and surveyors the ability to tie into and use reference stations data at their project locations.

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