Ground surveys are a preliminary first step in gathering critical information that can be used in developing a pipeline proposal. The process of conducting these surveys involves several steps. Generally, each property will be visited by various specialists in land, engineering, archaeological and environmental sciences. These may or may not be concurrent visits but should not last longer than one or two days each. Some properties may need to be revisited to obtain additional data. All information collected will be used to help Williams determine the location of the proposed pipeline facilities.
Engineering surveys are how we take relatively large-scale, accurate measurements of the earth’s surface. We do this in order to establish marks to control construction, and to indicate land boundaries. This process normally doesn’t take longer than two days, and usually involves crews of two or three people using lightweight, GPS-enabled instruments to take measurements related to terrain and topography. The only evidence that a civil survey has taken place are the small wooden stakes placed in the ground to identify specific geographical survey points, such as wetland or property boundaries.
Environmental surveys are performed to map and catalog existing environmental conditions. They are critical to provide a comprehensive view of natural resources so that we can fully understand potential environmental issues within the project area. These field surveys are conducted by qualified scientists and environmental experts (ecologists, botanists, biologists) who have detailed knowledge of the plant and animal species and natural communities expected to be present on the site. Initial environmental surveys last just a couple days for each property. Scientists carefully examine the survey area on foot, identifying and mapping species habitat and completing thorough biological inventories. Some areas may require additional, more thorough species-specific biological surveys. These surveys must be done at appropriate times during the year to adequately survey for all listed species. The duration and methods will vary widely depending upon the species being surveyed.
Cultural Resource Survey
Cultural Resource surveys are a means to identify and gather information on a property’s architectural, historical, and archaeological resources. Cultural resources are evidence of past human activity. These may include pioneer homes, buildings or old roads; structures with unique architecture; prehistoric village sites; historic or prehistoric artifacts or objects; rock engravings called petroglyphs; human burial sites; and earthworks, such as battlefield entrenchments, historic canals, or prehistoric mounds. A qualified cultural resources expert will begin by researching the area, which may include interviews with landowners, local historians, and archaeologists to gather information on where historic sites and artifacts may be present. That will be followed by a thorough field examination to assess the project area’s physical condition as well as to determine whether there are any archaeological sites visible on the ground surface. During this stage, the field team will note any visible cultural resources, photograph any structures, and document both the type and level of disturbance that may have compromised the physical integrity of archaeological sites. Cultural resources surveys on a specific property normally last just a few days, but the duration may vary depending upon the significance of potential discoveries.