Putting on Our “Fishing” Caps to Solve a Problem

June 18, 2019

Bryan Hazelwood, Brian Lantz, and Eric Feltner (of CEC’s Pittsburgh Civil Engineering group) needed to conduct an as-built survey to determine the depth of water in a large water impoundment at a natural gas facility.

What do these types of sites look like? They’re usually comprised of a steep slope lined with a slick, impervious liner and are typically surrounded by fence, locked gates, and confined space signs. We find that our clients shy away from CEC going “inside the fence” unless absolutely necessary due to safety concerns. Entering the fence at these facilities requires additional safety planning and additional safety equipment.

Site: Water Impoundment
The site was a water impoundment at a natural gas facility.

For the typical as-built survey at a natural gas facility, CEC’s professionals use conventional survey equipment coupled with CEC’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) aircraft (in other words, a drone). However, mapping a surface that is below water using these methods can present additional logistical challenges and safety concerns.

The use of conventional surveying methods for this task have historically included deploying a boat into the impoundment and using a survey rod to take measurements beneath the water’s surface. Having our professionals in a boat when it could possibly be avoided is an increased safety risk that CEC’s professionals wanted to avoid. In addition, deploying and retrieving the boat from the impoundment risks damage to the impoundment’s exposed impervious liner, which is integral to both the impoundment’s performance and maintaining regulatory compliance for our clients. With these risks in mind, CEC’s professionals wanted to develop a safer and more efficient way to address our clients’ needs.

Their solution? They adapted inexpensive, off-the-shelf fishing technology for a new purpose:

  1. ReelSonar iBobber Wireless Fish Finder
  2. Fishing rod and reel
  3. Free IPhone app
The RealSonar iBobber Wireless Fish Finder
The ReelSonar iBobber Wireless Fish Finder
Using the ReelSonar Wireless Fish Finder and iPhone app
Using the ReelSonar iBobber Wireless Fish Finder and iPhone app


Thanks to this innovative adaptation of existing technology, CEC can now determine the depths of these facilities without compromising safety or risking damage to the liners. CEC simply ties the wireless fish finder onto the end of the line, casts it into the water, and the device reports real time water depths to the iPhone app based on the devises exact location as it’s reeled across the impoundment surface.

  • It’s a safe, efficient, and cost-effective value-added service.
  • This approach has applications in all of the markets that we serve: natural gas impoundments, residential or commercial stormwater facilities, lakes and rivers, mining facilities, and countless other uses (not to mention using it as a fish finder when our team is enjoying their personal time!)
  • Clients need to be aware this is not survey-grade information. Clients can use this information as a reasonable estimate of existing conditions to decide whether more a more accurate investigation is warranted.

CEC was proud to present Bryan, Brian, and Eric an Award for Innovation for their creative and resourceful thinking!

Greg Quatchak, Bryan Hazelwood, and Brian Lantz -- Innovation Award
Greg Quatchak (CEC Founding Principal), Bryan Hazelwood, and Brian Lantz. Not pictured: Eric Feltner.

If you have any questions about this tool or how we can help you, please contact Brian Lantz at blantz@cecinc.com or by phone at 412-249-1598.


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About the Author

CEC Staff

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) provides comprehensive market-oriented consulting services to advance client strategic business objectives. CEC is recognized for delivering innovative design solutions and integrated expertise in air quality, civil engineering, ecological sciences, environmental engineering and sciences, manufacturing infrastructure services, survey/geospatial, waste management, and water resources.

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