The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is the foundation of property boundary descriptions in Wisconsin. An essential characteristic of PLSS is a numbering system that locates each corner within the statewide PLSS network. The Wisconsin Corner Point Identification System, commonly known as the Romportl System or Romportl ID, is one such system developed in the early 1990s by a committee chaired by Mike Romportl, Oneida County Surveyor.
While the Romportl System has been adopted by many organizations in Wisconsin, there is no entity that formally administers it as a statewide standard. Thus, variations in implementation exist, particularly when special cases occur. In order to implement the Romportl System for the Statewide PLSS Database being developed, the State Cartographer’s Office (SCO) has proposed a Statewide PLSS Corner Numbering System (9mb) that explains the guidelines that will be used to assign Romportl numbers for the following special cases: closing corners; excess or deficiency in section length; and meander corners.
Romportl System History
Eleven Character Limitation
The numbering system was originally constrained to 11 characters due to the nature of the data storage system of the time. Principal meridian direction, township, range, and section exhaust seven characters leaving only four characters to describe the location of a point within a section. An ideal section is 80 chains west by 80 chains north, but in special cases a section edge may extend up to 160 chains (or two miles). The committee from the 1990’s wanted to design an intelligent ID, therefore using chains north and west from the southeast corners of a section made sense; however, using the chains directly led to overflow when in special cases a section edge was in excess of 99 chains. To address this they divided the chains by two; this resulted in each north and west component having a maximum value of 80, a value within the two character limit for each north or west component of the four digit corner number.
Corner Number Origin
A frequently asked question about the Romportl numbering system is why the origin for the corner number is in the southeast corner of a section. This is to capture the nature in which the original survey was conducted in Wisconsin by the General Land Office in the mid to late 1800’s. Original surveyors would divide a township into sections starting in the southeast corner of that township. Section lines were blazed moving north and west, hence the corner numbers increasing in the north and west directions.