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Veraguth named 'Surveyor of the Year'

Pat Veraguth

Douglas County surveyor Pat Veraguth was named "Surveyor of the Year" by the Minnesota Society of Professional Surveyors at its annual meeting Feb. 15.

Veraguth was recognized for his work for the organization as well as his agreement to take on the challenge of placing new markers on original surveying locations from the mid- to late-1800s, a process known as remonumenting.

That means finding about $160 million over two decades to replace about 160,000 markers.

"It determines the boundaries of every landowner in the state of Minnesota," Veraguth said. "It's going to take a lot of money and I'm not sure where it's going to come from for now."

The project looks likely to receive its first bit of funding from the Legislature this year, $135,000 through the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, to re-do the markers in Lawrence Township in Grant County, Veraguth said.

The issue has challenged states around the country, as they seek to update their markers. Most were made of wood and rotted, while others were buried under roads or covered during plowing. The absence of the original monuments leads to increased risk of property disputes, disagreements over resource rights and confusion over easements, he said.

About 96 percent of Douglas County has been remonumented, Veraguth said. While original surveyors went out with 66-foot chains and a compass to mark the corners of one-square mile sections of land, GPS systems make surveying work much easier nowadays.

They do still run into challenges, sometimes having to tramp through swamps and brush. And in Winona County, where Veraguth used to work, he and a partner were clearing brush around a marker when he heard buzzing and his partner took off running. Veraguth thought it was bees until his partner yelled, "Snake!"

There was a rattlesnake, shaking a warning at him.

And now, Veraguth says, people searching for that monument will likely still find a rattlesnake skeleton wrapped around it.