Holdrege and Kull Take on Big Challenges
Traveling along Searls Avenue a modest residential house sports a sign out front -Holdrege & Kull. If you aren’t associated with the building industry, you probably haven’t got a clue what these guys do. It’s a fascinating aspect of Nevada County to discover companies that look small from the street and to learn the magnitude and impact they have throughout Northern California.
Tom Holdrege and Chuck Kull founded their own geo-technical engineering firm in 1993 after working together for several years at Anderson Geotechnical Services. They handle projects that require foundation consulting, geological expertise, and civil engineering. They also do construction management and monitoring. “Most of our work is underground so when the projects are finished no one ever sees our work,” Chuck Kull commented.
Both Tom and Chuck grew up in Nevada County. They freely admit that their careers really began in backyard sandboxes moving sand and digging holes. Granted, their dirt moving capabilities have gotten a little more sophisticated and a lot more complex. Chuck did both his undergraduate degree in geology and his engineering degree at San Jose State. Tom started at Colorado State in Geology and received his engineering degree from Purdue.
One of the first major contracts they were awarded was after the Northridge earthquake in 1994. “We crawled under hundreds of houses to determine if they were safe to re-enter while there were still aftershocks going on. It was definitely my least favorite job, but it helped establish our reputation throughout the state,” Chuck Kull commented. Last fall while motorists sped along Highway 20 past the work being done on the new wing of the hospital, most were oblivious to the fact that Holdrege and Kull were monitoring the blowing up of the hillside. Because the ground there is almost solid rock, it was impossible to dig drainage ditches so they used dynamite and had fun doing it. “Blankets” made of recycled tires are spread on the ground over the place where dynamite is laid so that no dust is kicked up and the sound is muffled.
Blowing up rock seems to be one of their favorite assignments. Holdrege and Kull designed the shoring for two of the main spans on Yerba Buena Island for the new Bay Bridge. The footings for the bridge were 90 feet deep. All that dynamiting sounded like a lot of fun and a heck of big responsibility.
Last fall they completed the Cascade Shores waste water treatment plant to stabilize the slope where a dangerous landslide occurred in the spring of 2005. They also designed and supervised the building of a retaining wall at the Nevada City waste water plant. It required bolting the rocks into the hillside to guarantee its stability.
They have worked as far north as Redding where the company consulted on a new marina at Lake Shasta and as far south as Turlock where they contracted to design and an irrigation system. Tom Holdrege is currently focusing on the new Sierra College campus in Truckee assessing any geologic hazards testing the soil to determine the kind of foundation needed –a state requirement for all schools and hospitals.
Another aspect of their business is the environmental division. They work as liaisons/consultants for their clients and the state. The company has analyzed and recommended work to be done on several abandoned mines around the county. Though lead and arsenic do occur naturally, its effect on the environment and health risks increases when a narrow vein of it is pulverized in the mining process. More of these metals are exposed through high piles of tailings. Older gas stations are another problem Holdrege & Kull are called in for when aging underground tanks begin leaking. They assess the danger to the local water and soil and consult on the repairing of these tanks.
Holdrege and Kull Engineering have grown very quickly employing 64 people (and one dog) with $6 million in annual revenue. Last year they were honored by the Economic Resource Council partly for their philosophy of taking care of their employees but also for the economic impact they have on our county. The company has satellite offices in Truckee, Chico, Oakdale, and Yuba City.
792 Searls Ave.
Nevada City, CA
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