What Does A Field Right-Of-Way Agent Actually Do?

By Christopher Morgan, CM Land Solutions | November 2010 Vol. 237 No. 11

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The advantages of utilizing a qualified and knowledgeable field right-of-way agent on pipeline integrity projects can sometimes be overlooked. A right-of-way agent with a firm foundation in pipeline integrity can be a valuable asset to inspectors and constructions crews whose jobs too often expand into dealing with issues that otherwise should be handled by a right-of-way agent.

The problem in many cases is a right-of-way agent is not used at all, or an agent not familiar with integrity projects has simply made a few phone calls and left the scene. With a close working relationship with company right-of-way departments, inspectors, integrity engineers, and construction crews, an involved right-of-way agent can save time, money, and all those little headaches that strain too many projects.

From the start, a right-of-way agent who specializes in pipeline integrity is set apart by utilizing the same data and information that the engineers and inspectors will be using for each dig, the dig sheets. A field agent who can read and understand a dig sheet can save the client a lot of time when it comes to being provided the necessary information to find affected landowners.

In many cases, valuable time is spent between engineers and right-of-way departments marking alignment sheets, locating affected files and pulling easements, and compiling this information for the field agent. The most simple and effective process, however, would be to send the agent the dig sheets. With an AGM list and some competence, the dig sheets will provide the agent with all the information needed to precisely locate affected landowners. By using the dig sheet data, field agents should be able to map out the locations in the same manner they will be chained out and staked on the ground. This method delivers more accurate locations while eliminating the need for right-of-way departments to pull easements and alignment sheets prematurely, or simply to identify ownership. If needed from here, the field agent can afterwards prepare and provide the necessary information to identify files and easements for the digs, freeing up company departments to address more important issues.

While traditionally a right-of-way agent will research ownership by going to county appraisal districts with X marked alignment sheets, a specialized field agent will use the same methods and tools utilized by the inspectors and crews, who depend so much on the quality of their work. Many inspectors will import AGM locations into software such as Delorme Street Atlas, and map out their digs into this software.

Right-of-way agents who are familiar with this process can map their digs in the same manner, ensuring to be on the same page as the rehab crew. After creating this type of map file in Delorme, an agent can accurately measure out or plot GPS coordinates into other useful tools such as Google Earth or ArcGIS Explorer if necessary. With these resources an agent can go to the appraisal district with more updated and accurate information to identify the affected landowners, and do so with fewer mistakes.