LICA’s view: Back to the future

Revisiting the history of drainage before exploring the future of drainage.
Mike Cook
October 23, 2018
By Mike Cook
By the time you receive this magazine, the edited version of LICA’s History of Drainage, We Help Feed the World, will nearly be ready for print. LICA expects to send out more than 5,000 copies to government officials, schools and universities, contractors, and others who are interested in the history of drainage.

It has been very interesting to assemble a timeline of drainage evolution, from Cato, the elder in Italy (around 160 BC) to today. Like a lot of modern-day inventions, drainage was slow changing until the mid-1960s. By mid-December we hope to have the hardbound book go to print.

Editorial submission guidelines
If you have anything interesting for the book, we want to hear from you. All editorial submission should include the following four items:
  1. Date: The publication will follow a timeline.
  2. What: Describe the action, product or service.
  3. Impact: Describe the positive impact it had on the industry.
  4. Source: Identify the source.
Please submit all editorial to the designated email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

If you have some history you would like to share, please contact Jerry Biuso, National LICA CEO (phone: 908-996-7979, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ); Bob Clark, project chairman (phone: 317-694-9167, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ); or myself (phone: 989-587-3528, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

A glimpse into the past
Records show John Johnston, a Scottish native, brought drainage to the United States in 1838. Over the years, he laid approximately 72 miles of clay tile on his 320-acre farm. In the beginning, clay tile was handmade in various ways before being mass-produced in kilns, a type of oven that made the process more efficient. When it came to installing tile, contractors relied on hand digging and horses with scrapers. This install method lasted until the Buckeye Trencher Corporation started to build steam trenchers in 1902. In the early 1960s, the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service at Ohio State University researched ways to line drains with plastic and control the mole plow powered by a dozer with a laser. Mole drains were also common. From then, to the present, tile drainage has modernized in leaps and bounds, with more of its story yet to be told.

Looking forward
History is important, but so is the future. From Feb. 26 to March 2, 2019, LICA will host its Winter 2019 convention at the Hilton El Conquistador Resort, in Tucson, AZ.

The resort is all-inclusive with many activities and fun things to do, so make plans to attend. The convention is always educational and meeting other contractors yields new ideas. You can visit www.licanational.com for more details. We look forward to seeing you there! DC


Mike Cook is the current president of the Land Improvement Contractors of America. Visit www.licanational.com for more updates from LICA.

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