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ON-SITE SOIL INVESTIGATIONS

Brochure 5 in Soil Survey Series

Is The Soil Survey Good Enough?

January 21, 2004
Land Use Committee
Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society
Member of the CACNA Coalition

The Soil Survey

Soil Survey1 The Josephine County soil survey was mapped at two levels of intensity or detail:  The more detailed  2nd  order level and the less detailed 3rd  order level.   The 1,040,000 acre Soil Survey has 157,532 acres (15%) of 2nd order survey, 880556 acres (85%) of 3rd order survey, and 1,912 acres (0%) of water.2

2nd order level soil surveys are generally appropriate for general agriculture and urban planning.   Map unit size is generally no smaller than 10 acres but could be as small as 4 acres.  It is our opinion that 2nd order level surveys are better for proposed land divisions of 5 acres or less.  For example, this level survey would probably be appropriate to support a comprehensive plan and zone change from a Woodlot Resource zone or a Farm Resource zone (range of 10 acres to 150 acre development proposal) to Rural Residential minimum five acre lots.  This does not mean that a 3rd order survey will not do if no other data is available.

3rd order level soil survey usually have less field verification and more remotely sensed data than the 2nd order units. This data is considered extensive and could be used for range and community planning.  Unit size is generally 40 acres or larger but could be as small as 4 acres.

Is The Soil Survey Good Enough?

Accurate Enough?  How does the user decide if more detailed data or more accuracy than the order level survey can provide is needed?  What if you have a 3rd order soil survey and you think you might need a 2nd order?  Is it too late when a soils “expert” presents a professional position during a land use hearing?  What are the criteria a Soil Survey user should consider when making this determination?  Consider asking the following questions.

        Does the order survey (tool) fit the job?

         Is the information from the Soil Survey a logical answer when you ground truth (walk) the land?

Equity Issue.  How does the interested public that has decided better soils data is needed deal with access issues?   A major equity issue is lack of access by all interested persons to conduct new soil surveys.  The land use request applicant can gather new or additional soils data on his land to meet the burden of proof requirements.  Petitioners do not have this ability as access to conduct their own soil surveys in rebuttal is normally denied.

More Information

Site Specific Work.  When Soil Survey users need more detailed data or more accuracy than the survey can provide, an on-site soil investigation should be conducted.  If the NRCS is unable to provide these services, a private certified soil scientist/classifier could be hired to do the site-specific work. 

Would you like to learn more about the Soil Survey of Josephine County, Oregon and/or the soils of your property?  Consider contacting:

Dennis E. Hutchison
Certified Professional Soil Scientist/Classifier
1578 Joelson Road
Umpqua, OR 97486
Phone: 541-673-9783
Email: pjhdeh@wizzards.net

This brochure is one of five in the “soil survey” series.

1.         Soil Survey
2.         2nd & 3rd Order Soil Surveys
3.         Agricultural Soils
4.         Forest Soils
5.         On-Site Soil Investigations

Would you like to learn more about citizen involvement in land use planning?  Contact a member of the Land Use Committee of the Hugo Neighborhood. 

Disclaimer.  This brochure is as much about providing information and provoking questions as it is about opinions concerning the adequacy of findings of fact and land use decisions.  It does not provide recommendations to citizens and it is not legal advice.  It does not take the place of a lawyer.  If citizens use information contained in this paper, its their personal responsibility to make sure that the facts and general information contained in it are applicable to their situation. (Link)

1.  United States Department of Agriculture. Soil Conservation Service. December 1983. Soil Survey of Josephine County, Oregon. (0R033) (Now Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

2. Soil Survey (page 13, Table 4, and Index to Map Sheets, Soil Legend - those map unit names with an asterisk were narrowly defined units (3rd Order Survey); without asterisk (2nd Order).

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2012 Hugo Neighborhood Association & Historical Society