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Honoring Our Roots – Surveying

Declared by then-President Ronald Reagan on February 13, 1984, National Surveyors Week is celebrated each year starting the third Sunday in March. The purpose of the week is to educate the public about the value of land surveying through classroom contact, media, and visible public service.

Beginning as a surveying company, Sunrise is proud of our 26 surveyors, technicians, and staff members. “We have some exceptional survey talent at Sunrise. It’s always fun when we get approached by new clients who do their research and know we are the folks who are needed for their challenging project. We are lucky to have people with not only amazing talent, but also incredible work ethic. Many of our clients choose us because they see both of these attributes,” says Burton Christensen, PLS, manager of the Salt Lake City, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada survey departments. In addition to the survey teams in Salt Lake City and Nevada, Sunrise has a team of surveyors in Phoenix, Arizona and Richfield, Utah.

History of the Survey Department(s) in Sunrise Engineering

James Cox was the founder of the company who was a seasoned land surveyor with the Utah Department of Transportation. Later, Ernest Rowley came on as the Chief of Surveys and was later succeeded by Dale Robinson. Surveyors were added in Phoenix, Arizona under Dale in the late 1990s, and in 1999, the survey department was split into two groups, Utah and Arizona, with Thomas Luizzo as Arizona manager until 2002.

In January 2007 Dale became a Vice President and the survey department was again split into Utah Survey and Arizona Survey, with Burton Christensen managing Utah and Tony Elley managing Arizona. In 2008, Utah Survey had surveyors in Boise, Idaho, Salt Lake City, Utah, Fillmore, Utah, Washington, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada until mid-2009 when the recession made it necessary to close the Boise office, and later that year, remove survey from the Washington office. In 2010 the survey work we were doing in Las Vegas dropped to a trickle and needed to be shut down as well.

In 2017, after years of hard work, Sunrise picked up a good project in Las Vegas and recruited Nick Smith to be the Service Center Manager for the Nevada Survey Service Center, officially formed in 2018. In 2019 Nick Smith moved on and Terry Thomas was named service center manager. In 2021, Terry retired and Craig Givant was named Service Center Manager for Nevada Survey. By the end of the year Craig had resigned as Service Center Manager and Dale was named interim manager.

In 2020 Tony Elley also moved on. A replacement was hired, but only lasted two months, and Dale Robinson became interim manager of Arizona Survey. In 2022 Nick Johnson II was named Service Center Manager for Arizona Survey. In late 2022, Sunrise acquired Savage Associates Engineering and their survey team was added to the new Richfield Service Center. In 2023 Burton was named Service Center Manager of the Nevada Survey Service Center.

Survey Aspects at Sunrise Engineering

Lately the dark horse of surveying has been UAV mapping. Nine years ago, Sunrise didn’t own a drone, and by the end of 2022 we realized over 30% of our survey revenue in Utah was tied to drone-related projects. It has become quite common. Sunrise also performs multiple boundary/right-of-way surveys, topography, reality capture (3D scanning), construction staking, settlement, archeology survey, and/or environmental monitoring. Our most common work is in mining and petrochemical sites.

We do a massive percentage of our work for Rio Tinto Kennecott Copper and Southwest Gas, but we also do work for other mines like Nevada Gold, McEwen, First Majestic, and MP Materials, and other energy companies like Holly Refining, Chevron, Marathon, and Silver Eagle. Additionally, we work with other consultants like ICPE, JOB, AECOM, Parsons, Jacobsen, and Pinnacle, to name a few.

Survey Technology at Sunrise Engineering

Sunrise’s tripod mounted scanners are starting to age but are still very significant and turn our clients’ heads. With the latest generation of drones we use, we can collect airborne LiDAR and exceptional photography.

Our newest GPS rovers can take “leaning measurements.” All GPS systems we have used in the past have required a mount point to be fixed or plumb prior to taking a measurement, which made it difficult to measure the center of a power pole or the exact corner of a building. The new technology uses multiple internal measurement units (IMU) which detect orientation on each axis. After initialization, the rover can be used to take measurements in storm drain inlets, under parked cars, or other measurements that can be easily captured with a leaning rod, but difficult to measure with a vertical or plumb rod. The new technology also speeds things up when performing construction staking because we don’t need to level up a rod when we are trying to find the precise location of a point. Now, we hold the rod slightly off the ground as we walk to a point and watch our distances on a data collector, moving as directed until we see all zeros. At that moment you simply put the rod down and you have found your point.

Recent Sunrise Engineering Survey Projects

In Utah, for the past year or so, we have been performing in-progress aerial flights of two projects, ACIS Brine Pond near Delta (weekly), and Evraz Steel Mill in Pueblo, Colorado (monthly).

In Nevada, we have been providing staking support for a 20+ mile road project in Blythe, California.

The Nevada and Utah Survey Service Centers recently finished a 3D scan project (400+ scans) of a mine process facility in Mountain Pass, California, which is a rare earth mine that produces several elements needed for EV batteries.

The Arizona and Utah Survey Service Centers responded within hours of first contact to 3D scan a freeway bridge that was affected by flooding in Tempe, Arizona.

In Richfield, we recently completed construction staking on two separate solar generation sites.

Typical Career Path of a Surveyor

It is somewhat rare for people to grow up wanting to be a surveyor. Most existing surveyors discovered the profession and feel it is a good fit for them. Most entry level surveyors start out as a summer hire and end up loving the work. Most states require a combination of schooling and experience to become licensed.

A good entry into the field of land survey may include becoming a NSPS Certified Survey Technician (Levels I, II, III, IV). To become a PLS, one would need to have several years of experience and pass the FS and PS exams.

Every state sets their own rules for licensure. In Arizona, for example, you can become licensed through working a fixed number of years under a licensed surveyor. You can accelerate this timeline by getting a qualifying degree. In Utah, there is not path to licensure through experience only. A degree has been required for those who had attained eight or more years of qualifying experience prior to January 1, 2007.

The common rule for most states is the requirement of passing two national exams and a state-specific exam. This is, of course, on top of their experience and degree requirements, if applicable.

Sunrise is seeking experienced field surveyors in each of the service centers that have surveyors. We also have openings for director level surveyors (licensed or unlicensed) with strong boundary experience in northern Utah and southern Nevada.

Advice for Future Surveyors

If surveying is your career path, get a degree when you are young. Try to cross train on boundary, instrumentation, drafting/Civil3D, Microsoft Office, and field techniques. Surveyors who are proficient in each aspect of the business tend to get more opportunities. If you put all your efforts on field related proficiencies, it can be hard for you to add value during periods of heavy snowfall or rain. Those who cross train simply go into the office and keep working during inclement weather.

Additionally, it is important to take all the math classes you can, wear sunblock, and have fun.