There is not a square inch of earth that isn’t subject to movement. “Everything is at risk of falling or moving,” points out Cameron Lobato, P.E., P.Eng., western division director for GeoStabilization International (GSI). The recent landslide in Washington’s Cascade Mountains that took lives and destroyed property is a testament to that. “There are geohazards everywhere we go,” Lobato says. “Some of them happen right away. Some go undetected as an imminent threat, but that’s the world we live in.”
For Lobato, making earth safer to the extent he can is his life’s mission. GSI mitigates geotechnical hazards throughout the United States and Canada, specializing in emergency landslide repair and rockfall mitigation. Lobato is part of a team of geologists, geotechnical engineers, equipment operators, and rockfall remediation technicians mitigating hazards with more than 50 soil nail launchers, track drills, and limited-access drill rigs. Lobato was president and chief engineer of GSI’s former subsidiary, GeoStabilization Inc., from its 2007 founding until its early 2013 merger with Soil Nail Launcher Inc. and Landslide Solutions Inc. He now leverages his expertise in construction means and methods associated with landslide mitigation adjacent to active public highways.
Lobato says he’s done so many “cool” projects, from historic preservation in Telluride, CO, to shoring or expanding a foundation to save a house to strenuous rockfall mitigation work for the US Army Corps of Engineers in California. It’s satisfying when the plan comes together, he points out, adding, “If you only did one project you’re most proud of, you’re not doing enough projects.”
What He Does Day to Day
Being in charge of GSI’s western region means Lobato travels a great deal, from the Pacific Ocean east to the Dakotas, through an area encompassing Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Canada. His days are spent in job selection, estimating, design overview, resource allocation, and overseeing the company’s general direction. He works with clients to get a handle on the geotechnical challenge, be it a rockfall, avalanche, landslide, or bluff mitigation and erosion control.
What Led Him Into This Line of Work
As a child growing up in a small western Colorado mining and farming town, Lobato would help his grandfather in his machine shop, welding, machining, and working with steel and heavy-equipment operations. He developed a desire to combine his love of dirt and construction into a job, wanting to go beyond “running the toys” to do civil engineering. Lobato earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Colorado School of Mines. He entered the geotechnical construction field in 1996, working with a Colorado design-build firm for 10 years, managing and designing projects for temporary and permanent soil nail landslide stabilization, micropile walls, rockfall mitigation, tieback stabilization, and geosynthetically confined soil retaining walls. He has designed and supervised the construction of countless projects.
What He Likes Most About His Work
Lobato’s job satisfaction is in doing the seemingly impossible or difficult access jobs where there is a need to mitigate a geohazard, and in producing the designs and innovations needed to do so.
“I get pretty bored on just the bid/build work,” he says. He prefers the start-to-finish projects: seeing a problem, understanding it, designing a solution, design resources around that solution, and then implementing the solution to the client’s satisfaction.
His Biggest Challenge
Time management is a challenge, given the geographic area his responsibilities cover.
Another challenge: “Continually trying to grow and teach people within our own organization how to do things better,” Lobato says. “The key to being successful is to surround yourself with excellence. Rather than just running a bunch of people on the payroll, you have to be a good mentor to bring people around you to understand and have an appreciation for the kind of work we do.”He adds that he’s proud of those with whom he works and shares a similar passion for mitigating geohazards. “It’s not your typical job,” Lobato points out. “It’s much more satisfying. I’d rather work hard at what I’m doing than have an easy 9-to-5 job and not like it.