Earlier this year, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) implemented the revised 2021 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements (“2021 Standards”) for surveys. If a contract to provide an ALTA/NSPS survey is executed after February 23, 2021, the survey must comply with the updated 2021 Standards.

With the transition to the 2021 Standards, project developers are wrestling with the changes to an optional item, Table A Item 11, which adds certain specifications regarding the depiction of evidence of utilities. Table A Item 11 is a standard survey requirement from financing parties and purchasers of renewable energy projects. With the previous 2016 Standards, if Table A Item 11 was requested, the surveyor identified evidence of utilities existing on the surveyed property through observed evidence, utility company’s plans requested by the surveyor, and an 811 utility locate request. The 2021 Standards limit Table A Item 11 to underground utilities and shift the burden on the project developer to determine what type of evidence is used to depict locations of underground utilities in Table A Item 11, but all ALTA/NSPS surveys require the surveyor to depict observed evidence of utility locate markings and allow the utility locate markings to be used as evidence of easements and utilities. While the mandatory depiction observed utility locations is beneficial for a project infrastructure encroachment analysis, it may not paint the entire picture of the project property and could be problematic if the project is installing underground facilities.

If project developers request Table A Item 11, they have two options for the evidence of underground utilities: (a) plans or reports provided by the project developer and/or (b) markings received by the surveyor from a private utility locate request. The former places the burden on the project developer to obtain plans from utilities, which the project developer may not have the relationships or points of contact to obtain this information. The latter is an expensive and time intensive undertaking on behalf of the surveyor and significantly increases the total cost of the survey. To be able to incorporate as much utility information as possible into the survey, but keep costs manageable, project developers can revise the project contractor’s scope of work to include obtaining utility plans and information. Project developers can also negotiate with the surveyor to reach out to the utilities on behalf of the project developer for a lesser fee than a private utility locate request. If the project developer and surveyor agree on supplemental tasks outside the typical 2021 Standards, revising the surveyor’s services agreement to add in the specific obligations sets and manages expectations between the parties, which was the underlying goal of revising Table A Item 11 in the 2021 Standards.

In addition to the revisions to Table A Item 11, other notable changes made in the 2021 Standards include the removal of the former Table A Item 18 requiring the surveyor to depict the location of wetland delineation markers observed and a tweak to Section 6.C.ii.(e) clarifying that surveyors may opine on the effect of certain easements based on the face of the document that affect the surveyed property.

Contact Kaitlyn DeYoung or another member of Husch Blackwell’s Renewable Energy Team with any questions you have on ALTA/NSPS survey standards or any other renewable project development issues.