The Tie That Binds
By Gayle Mitchell
Nearly two years ago, I was honored with the presentation of the ceremonial tie that represents recognition of a person's contribution/commitment to service to IECA and its Board of Directors. As a board member for nine years, I had the opportunity to be part of IECA's growth, strategic planning, chapter expansion, and professional development. Capping this was the camaraderie and dedication of the board members themselves and the perspectives they brought to the IECA table. Coming from different educational backgrounds, work and life experiences, and parts of the world, the members of the board are one of the ties that bind the community of IECA.
In 1999 the IECA board established the Economic Research Committee and then held a summit to discuss and develop a strategy to address issues regarding the cost of erosion and its control. Some initial progress and successes were obtained. One of these was the Erosion Control Product report. The goal of the survey leading to this report was to determine the combined sales volume and economic impact of all erosion control industry–related products and equipment, as reported by manufacturers. Although the report was based on a small data set, it provided a first market report of erosion control products. Additional progress included an article in the Erosion Control journal and presentations at two IECA conferences on the economics of erosion and sediment control that were derived from a survey of state departments of transportation on their erosion and sediment control practices. As identified by the IECA Economic Research Committee, the goals of economic research are to provide public-sector policy-makers and regulators with information to make more informed, sensible, long-term decisions and ultimately save taxpayers money; raise the importance and significance of the erosion control industry; lead to improvement in quality of land, air, and water resources; provide assistance to the erosion control industry; and lead to innovation in products and technology. Although the progress toward achieving these goals has been modest and the tasks are daunting, it is vital that IECA continue to obtain and maintain up-to-date and reliable economic data to provide an important tie that will bind the organization as a leader in erosion and sediment control.
As the industry has grown, so has the need for QA/QC testing to lead to standards and specifications on erosion and sediment control procedures and devices. This provides manufacturers, designers, contractors, maintainers, and the general public with the best management technologies. In this arena, progress has been made by such groups as the Erosion Control Technology Council, the various committees of IECA that address these issues, the affiliation with and progress via the American Society of Testing and Materials, and others. The tie that binds these groups should be the prevailing desire to achieve the best products and procedures that will address, prevent, mitigate, and control erosion and sediment.
Personnel who address and solve the problems associated with erosion and sediment emanate from a broad spectrum of educational backgrounds: engineering, management, soil science, hydrology, agriculture geology, and many more. The IECA board often has discussed and pursued opportunities to work with educational institutions toward developing a curriculum to educate future employees for the industry. The importance of educating the next generations that will be the stewards of the land in erosion and sediment control has been recognized through the IECA scholarship program and the many technology transfer efforts of IECA via workshops, continuing-education units, and conferences. Development of an educational track or curriculum in erosion and sediment control still is a challenge. The development of the tie that binds this generation to the next both educationally and professionally will be important to the success in controlling erosion.
There are many ties that bind us: the camaraderie of board members as they meet the challenges of serving IECA, the goals of addressing issues on economic research, obtaining standards and specifications for an evolving industry, and pursuing an erosion and sediment control education. I have had the privilege to serve the IECA on the board and become part of that tie that binds the board, the IECA staff, the chapters, and the members.
Gayle Mitchell, P.E., is professor of civil engineering and chair of the Civil Engineering Department at Ohio University in Athens, OH, and director of the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment.