Survey marker project in third decade

ESCANABA — Efforts to remonument public land survey corners in Delta County are continuing — and could continue for the next decade and a half, according to people involved with the project.

Delta County Surveyor Mel Davis (who is also the founder of Davis Wanic Land Surveyors, P.C., the contracting surveyor for the project in Delta County) said the remonumentation project deals with the locations of the county’s survey corners.

“In the 1840s, when the original surveys were done in this area, they set corners every half a mile,” Davis said. These corners are the controlling factor in Delta County’s property rights.

The goal of this statewide project — which started in 1993 and is being handled through individual counties — has been to remonument and restore corners missing from Michigan’s land surveys while preserving existing corners. Davis said Delta County selected the company now known as Davis Wanic for this work near the start of the project.

“We started in 1993 — at that time, we had 5,275 corners to address in Delta County,” he said.

A significant portion of the county’s corners have already been remonumented as part of the project.

“To date, we’ve restored 3,612,” Davis said.

Just under 1,000 “protracted corners” have been added to the county’s records through this work, as well.

“They were not established in the original surveys,” Davis said of these corners.

According to Davis, Davis Wanic now includes Global Positioning System data in their remonumentation work.

“Since 2016, we’re required to establish geodetic positioning on each corner,” he said.

When all the data needed for a corner has been collected, a “corner certificate” is filled out and presented to a peer group consisting of three land surveyors unaffiliated with the project or Davis Wanic.

“They review all the data … resolve any problems that may arise, and then — once we have their approval — that corner certificate is recorded at the Register of Deeds office locally,” Davis said.

At the current rate of progress, work on Delta County’s remonumentation project is likely to continue for the next 15 years or so.

Davis Wanic President Terry Wanic said this is primarily due to the limited funds available for this work.

“Our dilemma is funding. We’re only funded for so many corners per year,” he said, noting the project could have already been completed if this was not an issue. Slightly more than $2.4 million has been spent on the project so far, with an average cost of about $688 per corner.

According to Davis, remonumentation work in Michigan is funded by real estate transactions recorded at Register of Deeds offices in the state.

“$4 of that recording fee goes into the state remonumentation fund,” he said. Counties across Michigan contribute to this fund, and this money is redistributed to counties based on their areas and populations. (Additionally, Delta County contributes $12,000 per year for local remonumentation work.)

Davis Wanic has tried to cover high-priority areas early on in its remonumentation efforts.

“We’ve concentrated on the private-landowner areas and (woodland) areas,” Wanic said.