IECA: Forty Years in the Making and Growing Strong

March 1, 2011

The beginning of 2011 is the perfect time to reflect on the history of IECA. The vision of our great organization began 40 years ago with its foundation in 1971. At that time, a seeding and tree service contractor named George Harrison polled a group of like contractors to see if there was interest in creating an erosion control contractor’s group. The result of his efforts was the first erosion control conference, held on January 15, 1972, in Portland, Oregon. Eleven contractors from four states attended, along with representatives from seven product and equipment supply companies. The total attendance was about 35 people.

This small conference established what, from the beginning, has been one of IECA’s greatest strengths: bringing people together to solve problems. This first meeting addressed the issues faced in the erosion control contracting business. At the time, this type of business was very new and uncertain. As discussions at this conference progressed, there was consensus that an association should be formed. Following this conference, Gordon Christiansen of Western Processed Fibers had a vision of diversity for this proposed association. That vision included an entire industry involvement not exclusive to one segment, such as contractors. His vision included a far broader range of professions, for an all-inclusive IECA, just as we know it today.

After many conversations between Harrison and Christiansen, a second conference was scheduled for September 2-3, 1972 in Oakland, California. There were 46 attendees at this conference, which included state highway personnel, utility companies, national park and forest service staff, the US Environmental Protection Agency, manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors. The atmosphere of this two-day meeting created a resolve for a single voice for all erosion control endeavors. Organizing committees were formed and in November 1972 this proposed association was born as the National Erosion Control Association. The first board of directors quickly added more vision to the association by aspiring to include professionals from all over the world. It was only three months later that the association name was changed to International Erosion Control Association.

The first IECA Conference Proceedings were published in 1974. In 1975, the board discussed the utility of a directory of soil erosion control people as well as the development of a standard set of specifications to be used by all government agencies.

In 1976, the board created the first IECA newsletter, the REPORT, which served members through 1993. In 1980, IECA was invited by honorary board member Mauricio Porraz, from Mexico City, to participate in the International Week of Engineering, which was held in Mexico City. As a result, IECA created the Honorary International Director position to include Porraz and Clodaldo Gomes from Brazil. Throughout the 1980s, IECA’s activities focused primarily on its annual conference, whose venue gradually pushed eastward across the US. In 1987, IECA adopted its first long-range strategic plan and discussions began on the development of national and international chapters. By 1988, state representatives were selected to initiate chapter development.

On several fronts, 1989 was a landmark year for IECA. Internationally, IECA held two non-US meetings. The annual conference and trade exposition was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, and in an effort to develop a European Chapter, IECA held a symposium in London on soil erosion control.

The growth of IECA accelerated in the 1990s, and many milestones were achieved. A few of those milestones included the following: The Professional Development Committee was created for erosion control professionals seeking new skills and knowledge; IECA became a co-sponsor of the Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) program; chapters became a reality and now flourish, thanks to the dedicated efforts of regional volunteers; and IECA delegates traveled the world, speaking at conferences in Europe, Asia, Australia, the US, and Canada.

Prior to the millennium, the founders of IECA likely didn’t realize where their vision would lead. IECA has graduated from being not only a source for erosion control professionals but also an extremely valuable source for water-quality professionals.

Change is in the air today just as it was in 1971, when George Harrison and Gordon Christiansen realized that a group of diverse individuals could come together and create a network of professionals with a common goal.

I feel that we are very fortunate to be able to continue and expand on that vision of a constantly evolving industry 40 years later.