Drainage Contractor

Editorial: May 2019

Looking up: Gaining perspective

May 2, 2019  By Stephanie Gordon

“There are no rules in Alaska.”

I was at the New York Land Improvement Contractors of America’s (LICA) annual convention when I overheard that phrase during a discussion on regulations, and I thought to myself, “Well, that can’t be true.”

That comment spurred the inspiration to uncover what the drainage industry in Alaska was like and if it really was a wild, unregulated land where anyone can dig anywhere.

It’s not.


Without actually being in Alaska, it was hard to know where to start tracking down a drainage contractor. After a couple of calls, I was advised to try Fairbanks or Anchorage, because those areas have more drainage issues. Going into the story, I expected to learn about completely different aspects of land drainage. After speaking with a contractor who installs water management systems in Anchorage, the surprise wasn’t how different the experiences were, but how similar.

During our conversation, it became clear that, despite the geographical distance and obvious changes in climate and conditions, contractors working on land drainage in Anchorage face similar experiences as their peers in the south, including municipal inspections, environmental regulations, unlicensed contractors and landowner conflicts, to name a few. It did not turn out to be the “no rules” Alaska that it was assumed to be. If anything, I was told, environmental issues are “pretty tight” in Alaska because people care a lot about the water and ecology that surrounds them. You can read about it on page 24 and see how the Alaskan experience stacks up to yours.

One thing became clear after conducting several interviews for this issue and speaking with drainage professionals across the country: whether it’s battling the same challenges or celebrating the same wins, this industry benefits when different perspectives come together.

We cover a lot of ground in this issue, and as you’ll see, contractors in all parts of North America and across the pond are looking out for one another. A challenge familiar to many, on page 20, Julienne Isaacs looks at how contractors can stay on top of blockages caused by roots clogging drain tile this season. Jacqui Empson Laporte shares what contractors can do to earn their social license and improve the public image of drainage on page 14.

In a guest contribution on page 28, Chris Unrau from southern Manitoba explains the state of tile drainage as his province tries to clarify a muddy regulatory process. Regulation on drainage isn’t new, and there are many contractors, legislators, and landowners who could share what worked in the past and what hasn’t. As old problems enter new areas, these areas have the most to gain from hearing how the challenges have been dealt with in the past.

Whatever surprises this season has in store for you, I hope you take a cue from this issue to venture outside your comfort zone to look for a solution. Advice may come from due north – or even in the past – but chances are, with a change in perspective, you’ll find the right answer.

We wish you a safe and prosperous summer.

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