ALS News: From the Director of Practice Review - Re-established v. Restored

Scott Westlund, ALS, Director of Practice Review
The past few weeks have been pretty typical. The pandemic is still the top news story. There is no June hockey in Alberta. I’ve hardly left the house. All my meetings have been held either online or by phone - and two of the plans I’ve examined recently didn’t close. Indeed, in the past couple of weeks, I’ve examined ten plans (two RPRs, two right-of-way plans, five subdivisions, and one disposition) and I found ‘typical’ anomalies on seven of them. For instance, two seemed to mix up restored and re-established, two did not close due to obvious drafting errors, and three showed found no mark where a search may not have been conducted. I’ve seen each of these anomalies several times in the past. Over my next two articles, I’ll review each of these ‘typical’ anomalies and suggest how they might be avoided. I’ll start with my current pet peeve, calling a restoration a re-establishment.
The definition of both re-established and restored can be found in Part E of the Manual of Standard Practice. In general, we re-establish the position of lost monuments (by using the best available evidence, etc.) but we restore a monument by determining its position from “traces of the original monument remaining on the ground or from other physical evidence” of its original position (MSP, Part E, Page 84). In essence, we restore a monument when we find the original monument but it’s not in perfect condition so we preserve its original position by improving it (normally by placing a brand new monument) and documenting its location, thereby making it easier for others to find and accept it.
Common issues associated with restorations
I’ve written about the difference between re-established and restored several times in the past but I continue to find that field crews often incorrectly describe a restoration as a re-establishment. In some cases, this leads to confusing comments on the plan and sometimes the plan doesn’t reflect what actually happened in the field.
Plan comments
Figure 1 illustrates what I consider to be a confusing plan comment. I saw this on a plan that was provided as part of a CCR plan package. This comment was not on the plan being examined but the ALS had accepted the iron post marked ¼ for their survey. When I saw this comment, I wondered what the previous surveyor actually did. Did they remove the P. type monument? If so, why and how? Finding a monument with the top broken isn’t that unusual and I expect removing the pipe and base of the P. type monument wasn’t easy to do. If they didn’t remove it, did they put a new iron post on top of it, in the pipe, or did they re-split the blind line and place the post marked ¼ somewhere in the vicinity of the P. type post? Adding the words ‘removed and replaced’ or other information to describe exactly where the new post is relative to the original P. type post would add a lot of clarity here.

TextDescription automatically generated
Figure 1 – Example of a confusing plan comment
For example, if the P. type post was removed and replaced with an iron post (I think this is what happened), this restoration might be better described as follows:
N1/4 2
Fd. P. Top Missing, Mp. 0.3N.
Removed P., Pl. I.
When documenting a restoration on a plan, it is important to be clear and precise so there is no doubt that the original position of the original monument has been preserved and that the restored monument can be relied on for future surveys.
As mentioned, removing a P. type monument is not normally easy to do. Figure 2 is a picture of the pipe and base of an original Part 2 P. type monument. Thanks to Duane Haub, ALS for providing the photo.

A picture containing tree, outdoor, grassDescription automatically generated
Figure 2 – Picture of the bottom portion of a P. type post
Confusing field notes
Figures 3 and 4 are excerpts from a recently examined CCR plan and the corresponding field notes. As you can see in Figure 3, the field crew appears to have found a post that is broken, bent and disturbed. They appear to have pulled the post, straightened it and placed it back in the ground. By writing ‘disturbed / re-established’ I think they might be describing a re-establishment but the original post straightened comment could be implying that they restored it. Based on this description, it is not clear whether post was or is in its original position or if they moved it from its disturbed position to some other position when they re-established it. Figure 4 shows what was drafted onto the plan. As you can see, the note on the plan implies that they simply straightened a bent post that was found, and remains, in its original position.
The two comments imply that completely different action was taken in each case. Based on information received from the ALS, the information recorded in the field notes is more accurate.
Text, letterDescription automatically generated
Figure 3 – Field notes showing a possible restoration or re-establishment.
 DiagramDescription automatically generated
 Figure 4 – The comment drafted onto the plan based on the field notes in Figure 2.
To avoid causing confusion, it is important to work with your field crews to ensure they understand the difference between a re-establishment and a restoration and that they record the information you need to confirm that a re-establishment was done using the best available evidence and that a restoration preserves the location of the original monument. Often drafting staff copy comments directly from the field notes to the plan. Thus, it is important for the field staff to use accurate terminology in the notes.
As a side note, if a monument is disturbed and you have to re-establish it, it’s best to place a new monument with your own permit number on it so that, in the future, everyone else knows that this is your opinion of the original position and not the original monument in its original position. Please dispose of the original monument appropriately so that it doesn’t cause confusion (don’t leave a piece of a broken post in the hole beside the new one).
The significance of the comments on the plan
The note we draft onto a plan provides an indication as to how much weight to assign to the monument. If we clearly describe a restoration, others will know that we found an original monument in its original position and it was still in this position when we left it. If we describe a re-establishment, others will know that our monument represents our opinion of the monument’s original position, and they can look at the surrounding information on the plan to determine how we derived our opinion.
Using accurate terminology on a plan makes a difference to future surveyors. A plan that inadvertently shows a re-established position as restored can cause uncertainty if the original monument is found or if there are questions about a monument’s current position. A plan that inadvertently shows a restored monument as a re-establishment gives less weight to the original monument.
An example of an almost perfect restoration
One of the plans I recently examined included an almost perfect restoration of the E ¼ 9. The field notes, included here as Figure 6, 7, and 8, describe an excellent restoration methodology. The crew found pits and a mound at the intersection of old fences. They dug for wood at the tip of the mound (and at the centre just to be sure) before placing a new post in what looks to be its original position (based on Bulletin 38 and the year it was originally placed).
This is an almost perfect restoration because I like the methodology and the documentation is thorough and makes it clear that it is a restoration, but unfortunately, they recorded this in the field notes–

Despite calling it a re-establishment in the field notes, as you can see in Figure 5, the plan correctly shows a restoration at the E ¼ 9 and this plan should not cause any confusion. However, I think the note on the plan could be improved by stating that the post was placed at the tip of the mound.
I’ll add that this information is available because the ALS has gone above and beyond by creating a record in the Corner Recordation Index (CRI) that includes a photo of the monument and shows the pit/mound/post configuration. I’ve included a portion of the CRI entry in Figure 9.

TextDescription automatically generated
Figure 5 – Portion of a plan showing a restoration of an E ¼
Accurately documenting this restoration is of particular importance because, in this case, the township plans indicates that the quarter sections adjacent to the E ¼ 9 were both intended to be 40 chains. This monument is 15 metres south of its theoretical position. I would like to personally commend the field crew that found this monument. It could have easily been overlooked because it is so far away from its theoretical position, and it was found in the trees.
Documenting a restoration in the field notes
Despite the terminology error in the field notes, this is an excellent restoration and I want to share both the restoration methodology and how it was documented by including portions of the field notes in this article (used with permission). In my opinion, if I ignore the re-est. comment this is the ‘gold standard’ for recording a restoration in the notes.
LetterDescription automatically generated
Figure 6 – Field notes documenting the restoration methodology
Text, letterDescription automatically generated
Figure 7 – Field notes documenting the restoration methodology
Text, letterDescription automatically generated
Figure 8 – Field notes documenting the restoration methodology
Diagram, engineering drawingDescription automatically generated
Figure 9 – sketch showing pit/mound/new post configuration
Restorations are different from re-establishments and the monuments we leave behind in each case have different significance. It is important that all staff are aware of the difference between a restoration and a re-establishment and use correct terminology throughout the plan preparation process. It is critical to be precise and accurate when describing a restoration on a plan to avoid causing confusion and future boundary uncertainties. Indeed, through my work with the Boundary Panel, I have encountered several situations where restored monuments cause boundary uncertainties. In at least one of these situations, it appears that a re-established position was incorrectly labelled as a restored position causing conflict between neighbours.
I would encourage everyone to discuss the difference between re-established and restored with their field and office staff to ensure that everyone is aware of the definitions of each term and the importance of getting it right in the field notes, on the ground, and on the plan.

10020 - 101A Avenue
Suite 1000
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3G2
1-800-665-2572 (Toll Free)

The Alberta Land Surveyors' Association (ALSA) is a self-regulating professional association legislated under the Land Surveyors Act. The Association regulates the practice of land surveying for the protection of the public.