Drainage Contractor

Features Guest Column
Remembering our roots while moving forward

December 5, 2022  By Chris Wagner

Eighty-one years ago, a group of drainage contractors from Missouri formed the first Land Improvement Contractor chapter. Since that time, we have grown to thousands of contractor members and 24 state chapters. Tiling remains a critical part of many of the chapters, not only to perform the work but also aiding in research and development while partnering with various colleges, communitiess and agencies.

In August, Kansas LICA worked with Service Member Agricultural Vocation Education to work on their SAVE Farm. Associates provided equipment while LICA contractors installed tiling and constructed a terrace. 

Missouri LICA partnered with the University of Missouri Extension to establish the drainage water recycling project in the state. They hosted a seven-day and nine-day Conservation Expo to install multiple test plots, Missouri’s first known saturated buffer, its second bioreactor, a retention pond and a wet well. It works with NRCS and the University Extension to provide Drainage Contractor Workshops and Landowner Drainage short courses.

Ohio LICA held a field day in conjunction with OSU’s Farm Science Review. Forty thousand feet of tile was installed.


Illinois and the University of Illinois Extension hosted a three-day drainage design workshop. On an annual basis they demonstrate bioreactor, saturated buffer and wetland construction at events.

Indiana regularly holds field days open to the public and has done two-stage ditch projects and installed a bioreactor. Their yearly meetings, also open to the public, feature speakers from NRCS and ADMC. They have successfully petitioned the state to have sales tax removed from drainage tile. They offer TSP training and certifications as well as numerous other training and certification courses.

Michigan LICA recently partnered with Ehsan Ghane of MSU Extension on a field day. Demonstrations included: saturated buffer installation, installation of a water control structure and demonstration of a water-gate valve. Speakers discussed soil health, cover crops, nutrient placement, saturated buffers and controlled drainage.

These are just a few of LICA’s commitments to drainage, its contractors and associates, but LICA has diversified through the years and drainage can take on different meanings as chapters expand away from the Midwest. Come east, where I am from, and say “tiling” and most of us still think of kitchens, bathrooms and mudrooms. Yet, drainage has become a critical issue as development increases. The need to get water in the ground or divert it to reservoirs may well become the future of drainage outside agriculture, and LICA contractors will continue to be at the forefront of that work.

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