CH2M HILL Seattle – The Early Days
As Remembered by Jim Poirot and others – 2006
Although I was not involved in the first discussions about expansion, various partners commented to me that now that the Boise office was stable and expanding that another office was possible. Earl Reynolds had developed the Boise market and others from Corvallis had been transferred to Boise to help with the marketing and smaller projects. The larger projects were accomplished in Corvallis.
Portland was also under discussion, but Ralph Roderick had been following the Seattle sewerage program that was just beginning a drastic expansion. The State of Washington had recently authorized the formation of regional sewerage agencies and a Seattle attorney and statesman had spearheaded the formation of a regional sewage district to solve the pollution in the 25-mile-long Lake Washington. Although the City of Seattle formed most of the western shoreline, there were numerous other communities all around its shores. All had raw sewerage discharging into Lake Washington, which created unsafe conditions and was deteriorating the lake.
This resulted in the formation of the Seattle Metropolitan Sewerage District. An engineering study was completed which recommended two new sewage treatment plants, many pump stations and numerous interceptor sewers. The engineering joint venture, know as Metro Engineers, included Brown & Caldwell, Hill, Ingman & Chase, R.W. Beck and others. Most of the engineering was to be accomplished by Metro Engineers along with a smaller district staff.
Ralph Roderick and Holly Cornell recognized that there would be additional work from Seattle Metro and that the surrounding communities would all need more engineering to develop new and expanded sewer systems. This justified an early move to develop the relationships and the selection of CH2M for some of the work.
Holly Cornell had been responsible for eastern Washington along with the Oregon shores of the Columbia River east of Portland. This included ongoing work at Hood River, The Dalles, Pendleton, Walla Walla, Milton Freewater, Pasco, Kennewick and Richland. Holly also was responsible for work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquartered at Walla Walla, which resulted in ongoing work in relocating a railroad behind the John Day Dam, relocation of the small towns of Arlington and Boardman and other assignments. Holly had also made contacts further west at Yakima and Wenatchee.
With new dams on the Columbia, the states authorized the establishment of port districts and this led to Jim Howland investigating engineering work for the ports. He and Jim Poirot landed a small study for the Port of Umatilla to determine the development plan for port properties and to recommend the first stage of development. Jim Poirot was the project engineer, and the study led to the design and construction of a dock, railroad, water system for fire fighting and later a marina.
Also, Holly made a contact at the City of Normandy Park by the Seattle Tacoma Airport. There had been controversy over whether the city should have its own sewerage system or be part of the South Suburban Sewer District. This resulted in a study for the city which was about to begin.
The decision was made that Holly Cornell should take eastern Washington and Oregon clients with him to Seattle. Since Jim Poirot had been working with Holly from about 1958 on most of the work, Jim was invited to move to Seattle, too. The Normandy Park study would be accomplished in Seattle and Jim would be the project engineer with Holly the partner in charge.
Holly felt there should be a third person selected to move who knew the Corvallis procedures, drafting standards and reproduction system. Oscar Frial was selected because he was working on Jim Poirot’s projects, he was very capable and he desired to transfer. Oscar was a University of Oregon graduate in Architecture but had worked part time in Corvallis at CH2M and was now full time. He was a foreign student from the Philippines and found there was a strong Philippine community in Seattle.
Holly analyzed possible office locations including downtown Seattle and nearby cities. He felt that it was important to be working closely with others involved in Seattle Metro and related projects such as financial firms that marketed city bond issues, city attorneys and other engineering firms. This led to his decision to locate downtown. The Logan Building on Union Street and 5th Avenue was selected and space was rented on the sixth floor. There the Seattle office began in 1960. The office later moved to the eighth floor and expanded numerous times. On the sixth floor Holly had an office and there was one large room for engineers and draftsmen. At the beginning, there was one steel desk with a Formica top, a table and a shelf along the window in the large room. Finally there were five desks along the window side and two drafting tables on the inside wall along with a Freidan calculator and a rolled thin paper copy machine.
Holly then contacted Manpower to select and hire the fourth member of the team, a receptionist/ secretary. A native of north Seattle, Leslie lived near the University of Washington. She had recently returned from attending Vassar College in the East and had strong recommendations.
This completed the team and July 1, 1960 was set for the opening date. Holly and Jim Poirot selected homes in north King County outside of Seattle and Oscar moved to Seattle near friends from the Philippines.
The Normandy Park sewerage study proceeded but involved previous controversies from the residents who did not want to pay the assessments and monthly costs for a new treatment plant. They argued that their septic tanks had been very expensive to build and some had sea shells imported to enhance the effluent percolation into the soils. The sewerage treatment plant controversy included whether it should be owned and operated by the city or the Southwest Suburban Sewerage District. The drainage basin included areas outside the city and a large portion of the capacity would be for the district. After litigation and numerous public meetings, the existence of E-coli in the roadside ditches was not tolerable and a final decision was made to proceed with the design of a sewerage system. The plant would be a responsibility of the district. Holly Cornell’s impressive explanations of the need, the logic and the costs at the public meetings were vital to public acceptance and his convincing expert testimony at the trials was crucial to a favorable decision to proceed.
The Normandy Park sewer design was accomplished in Corvallis with Lyle Hassebroek assigned to be the project engineer. Jim Poirot was the project manager and initially continued negotiations with the district. Lyle then moved to Normandy Park to be the resident engineer after the construction began. This was the first utility system for the city and Lyle worked continuously with the city manager, John Nicholson, to bring about the first city-wide sewerage system. Lyle then moved into the Seattle office to manage the Water and Waste Water Department of the rapidly expanding office.
The Richland water system study was also moved to Seattle and accomplished by Jim Poirot and a new engineer straight from England, Barry Barnes. Holly Cornell continued as the partner in charge, working extensively with Murray Fuller, City Manager. This study led to a new water treatment plant designed by Russ Culp in Corvallis, a prestressed concrete water storage tank designed by Dale King in Corvallis and a detailed analysis of the existing wells by Barry Barnes.
Work at Kennewick was from the City Engineer, Mar Winegar, and consisted of water pipelines and a new Raney well system along the Columbia River. The Pasco work was the continuing startup of a new water treatment plant. George Fisher was the city engineer and later joined CH2M in Seattle until his retirement.
The Port of Umatilla work continued partially from Seattle and the marina by Ken Stewart in Corvallis. This led to studies for the Port of Benton in Richland. A new dock on the Columbia was designed and the Port acquired property at Prosser, WA which was developed for industrial use. CH2M became the designers (designed in Corvallis by Wayne Phillips in coordination with the Walcott brothers in New York who were the owners of the new Seneca Corporation) of the first grape juice plant in the western states by Seneca from New York and a sewage lagoon was designed at Prosser for the wastes.
Other initial projects from Seattle were a sewerage study for Pendleton, revisions to the Pendleton airport, a prestressed concrete water tank for Wenatchee and the initial studies for a sewerage treatment plant in Yakima.
In Puget Sound the early work was for a sewerage investigation at Anacortes, water system studies at Centralia and continuous marketing for future work. After an initial study of the Port Angeles sewerage system a new treatment plant and outfall was designed and constructed with Lyle Hassebroek the project manager with the help of Jerry Boyle and Lowell Tuttle, outfall design by Phil Hall and Dave Peterson and Norm Ward designing the sewage treatment plant. A close relationship was developed with the Port Angeles City Manager, Don Herrman. A similar relationship developed with Ed Henken, Bellingham City Engineer and later Whatcom County Public Works Director, which led to early sewerage projects for Bellingham and in the 1970s, a “famous” ferry dock project for Whatcom County having serious problems. Recently, March 2006, I had a long visit with Ed Henken who is now retired, and he reviewed many of our projects when we worked with him. He described the ferry dock in detail and said he was proud to have had CH2M as engineers and, although we had our share of difficulties, we did all the right things and the final project was very acceptable.
Unique Project Stories
Pakistan Grain Elevator:
We hired a foreign student at WSU, Farid Ahsanuddin, from Pakistan who had been recommended to Holly Cornell by his structural engineering professor at Washington State University. I worked with Farid to keep him busy, flew him in my airplane to a spring OSU football game, took him on a tour of the Corvallis office and encouraged him to think of CH2M as a career. We hired Farid for two years after he graduated from WSU. We then hired Bob Hahn in about 1962, a structural engineering consultant in Spokane, who had specialized in grain elevators. Bob Hahn moved to Seattle and had Farid Ahsanuddin helping him.
Farid’s relative, an uncle or cousin, visited Seattle and I took them to lunch at the Washington Athletic Club. He was describing the new government-funded program to have farmers construct small steel grain elevators among the farms so that a group of farmers could have stored grain to last through the poor harvest years. This led to discussions about Bob Hahn designing a typical elevator and having Farid help him. The idea was for Farid’s relative to handle the Pakistan program and Farid would return to Pakistan to set up a CH2M office and manage the installation of the first and hopefully many more grain elevators.
Dr. Herschel Jones had joined CH2M through the Zinder and Associates acquisition in the mid 1960s and had a US AID contract in Thailand to study the economics of a nation-wide power transmission system. Since Dr. Jones had traveled to that region of the world, we asked him for his advice about CH2M operating in Pakistan. He supported the plan and volunteered to go with Farid to help set it up. After further discussions, it was decided that Holly would be the best to go with Farid, which he did.
As the first design was being fabricated and installed, it was found that there was no way for CH2M to be conveniently paid in U.S. currency, but bartering goods could be arranged such as carpets. Carpets were accepted and sent to the U.S. with no organized market for CH2M to barter the carpets for cash. Employees purchased some and the firm used some. Also, the elevator project did not progress in Pakistan and Farid set up his own consulting engineering business in Lahore, Pakistan which became one of the most thriving engineering businesses in Pakistan. Farid remains a good friend, we communicate continuously, I have visited him in Lahore and he and his family have stayed with us in the U.S.
The Seattle office in the mid and late 1960s had developed a number of major very profitable projects. One was the design of the new town of Valdez, Alaska in the spring of 1964 after the 9.2 earthquake demolished the old town. This resulted from a phone call to me from Warren George, the Chief of Engineering, Alaska District whom I had worked for as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Holly was on vacation and they wanted me or someone to be in Anchorage the next day to start negotiating design contracts immediately for construction starting in a few weeks. Jim Howland asked me to proceed which I did and, over the next few days, negotiated contracts for streets, storm sewers, water supply and distribution, domestic sewers and treatment, electrical power and general coordination with other consultants. This led to all work being assigned to Corvallis except the electrical system and the storm sewers, which were sub-contracted to Philleo Engineering in Fairbanks.
Because of the requirement to complete the street and underground utility construction by the fall freeze-up, I traveled to Anchorage and occasionally to Valdez weekly, and often twice per week. Some trips were to Anchorage in the morning and back that night on the “red-eye.” I often flew with Bill Shannon of Shannon & Wilson and he became a good friend. Shannon & Wilson was the firm selected to accomplish the geotechnical work on the new site five miles up the North shore from the old town. The work was profitable and we declined an offer of additional fees if needed on the STP. Construction was essentially complete by freeze-up in the fall of 1964. (See available article published in “Civil Engineering.”)
McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary
With Lyle Hassebroek serving as project manager, a study and design was completed for waist treatment plants for the prison and the farm facilities on McNeil Island in Puget Sound. Assisting Lyle were Phil Hall, Dave Peterson and Jerry Boyle. Numerous “interesting” events occurred along the way such as searching in the yards and buildings for the routing of sewer lines that were unknown, eating in the VIP dining room and being served by convicted murderers, and having prisoners as members of the design and drafting team. One draftsman had developed into an excellent India ink draftsman. Upon being released from prison CH2M was contacted to hire him during his transition stage which we did.
The Marketing Role of Engineering Associations
Holly had been active in the American Society of Civil Engineers and in the Consulting Engineers Council in Oregon. I had been involved in the ASCE Student Chapter at OSU by judging student contests and attending Oregon Section meetings. We both immediately joined the Seattle ASCE Section and the Consulting Engineers of Washington. Holly was also active in the local American Water Works Association where Fred Merryfield had just completed his role as the National AWWA President. The Water Pollution Control Association meetings in Washington were also attended.
Holly soon became the Seattle Section, ASCE President and I became the Membership Chairman. Holly also became the President of the consulting Engineers of Washington and I served on the Public Relations Committee. In ASCE I served on the 1967 National Convention Local Committee as Budget Chairman and in 1971 served as General Chairman of the combined National ASCE & ASME Transportation Convention. In the ’70s I also served as president of ASCE Seattle and CEC Washington.
The above activity directly led to numerous relationships that resulted in small then larger projects. Some of the many projects primarily resulting from these contacts are: I met Paul Wyatrack and Elwood Ott from the Seattle Engineering Department which led to the Seattle Storm Sewer separation assignment. I also first met Tom Gibbs, Executive Director of Seattle Metro at an ASCE meeting and later at Water Pollution Control meetings. This led to Tom searching for a unique assignment for CH2M that could not be accomplished by Metro Engineers. The first project was an economics study, managed by Dr. Herschel Jones, of the decisions that led to the current configuration of pump stations and the two new sewer treatment plants in the Seattle area. This led to the major studies described herein. Holly knew the Chief Engineer of the Seattle Water Department, Roy Morse. As he retired, he introduced us to his replacement and this led to continuous assignments for the Water Department, including rate studies and pipeline investigations. These relationships also led to Seattle City Light hiring CH2M to study the environmental impacts from a proposed Copper Creek hydroelectric plant on the Skagit River and to study the environmental impacts of raising the existing Ross Dam on the Skagit River.
The 1971 ASCE-ASME convention committee meet often for over a year and weekly for the last two months. The Technical Program chairman on the committee was Frank Jenes who was assistant chief engineer at the Port of Seattle who introduced me to Vern Lundgren, the chief engineer. They both helped us propose on the first container terminal for the Port of Seattle in the early ’70s. Dick Foster was the project manager and this led to many other Port assignments.
These relationships resulted in lasting friendships and in hiring some of the valuable engineers from the client staffs. The relationships were built by attending evening and weekend meetings continuously and in volunteering to lead society events. Attending sports events together also helped considerably. Without these professional society relationships, the progress of the Seattle office would have been at a much slower pace and maybe some of the larger projects would have never been obtained.
Pro-active University relationship building was a broadening goal during the ’60s and continued throughout the next decades. The original concept of locating in Corvallis by the founders was to be near a major engineering university, its staff, its students and its libraries. When the Seattle office was opened this concept continued by contracting in 1961 with two environmental engineering professors (Bob Seabloom and Bob Sylvester), to assist in studying sewerage outfall alternatives in Normandy Park near Seattle. Prof. Bob Seabloom and I spent a long Saturday on a small boat dropping numbered floats in Puget Sound off the Normandy Park beach and triangulating their locations to determine currents at various tide levels. We continued contracting with UW and starting in the early ’70s Prof. Seabloom brought his freshman orientation classes to our office where I would tell them about CH2M and give them office tours. We also gave lectures at UW and later at Seattle University, which resulted in top students like Gary Graham and Jerry Boyle applying for employment after some of my lectures.
First Changing of the Guard
In 1966, there was a strong team developed for the young office (see 1966 Organization Chart), with Carl Ryden and Jim Poirot as division managers and Barry Barns, Lyle Hassebroek, Bill Johnson as department managers. After six years, a decision was made to reorganize the Seattle office. Holly Cornell took on a special assignment to develop new methods and procedures for project performance, and the application of technological advances in communications, data handling and management systems to engineering techniques. This full-time assignment was accomplished in Seattle. Jim Poirot was assigned as Seattle Office Manager in 1967 and Carl Ryden was assigned the responsibility to concentrate on industrial projects in Washington and Alaska in addition to his other mechanical and electrical engineering duties and office wide assignments. By 1967 (see 1967 Organization Chart), Bill Watters had moved from Corvallis, Bob Hahn had been hired and the staff grew to a total of 35-40. In 1968, the team continued to expand and Dale King and Norm Ward moved from Corvallis to help manage the rapidly expanding list of projects.
Burke Hayes learned of the former group of Bonneville Power Agency associates who had formed a consulting firm in Seattle of economists and electrical engineers. Sol Schultz an electrical engineer and former Chief Engineer let it be known that the firm known as Zinder and Associates would like to be consolidated within a larger firm to better utilize their capabilities. The firm consisted of Dr. Herschel Jones, former Chief Economist of Bonneville Power, Sol Schultz, Harold Mozer, electrical engineer and specialist in rate studies, Lyle Dunston, electrical engineer, Sally Ruggles, secretary and Diane Kanning, bookkeeper and secretary. Other part time and contract associates in Seattle and Washington DC were available. They had ongoing contracts to help negotiate public utility rates for power utilities in the Northwest and for the group of aluminum industries in the Northwest. Contracts were also underway from the Federal Government. Holly Cornell negotiated the acquisition of the firm and decided to continue their operations in downtown Seattle in their present location until there was a consolidation of all Seattle CH2M operations in Bellevue in 1970. Sol Schultz worked part time for awhile and then retired and the others all became long term employees of CH2M, each with distinguished careers at CH2M HILL.
Washington State DOT
With the Federal Interstate Freeway program in full swing, Holly Cornell had established relationships with the Washington DOT. When the I-205 bypass around Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR became available to private firms, CH2M proposed in the mid 1960s and was successful in obtaining the preliminary and then final design contracts. A project office was established in Vancouver to work closely with the Washington State DOT local engineers. Bill Watters was moved to Seattle to provide the continuing contact with Assistant State DOT Engineer, Bill Bulley, and to supervise the Vancouver Staff. Gordon Elliott was moved to Vancouver from Boise where he had developed extensive credentials in Interstate Freeway designs. Maury Manning, Highway Engineering Technician, also moved from Boise to Vancouver. Other engineers hired for the Vancouver office included Otto Vydra, Dan Rawley, Mike DeLembo, and others.
Boeing 747 Plant
The 747 project was acquired after Holly Cornell worked closely with Bob Cole, VP of Boeing, to obtain smaller projects managed by Carl Ryden. In 1966, Boeing selected the Snohomish County Airport at Everett, Washington for the manufacturing facility of the new Boeing 747. The CH2M responsibilities included all the outside facilities across the bridge from the manufacturing building. They required all facilities to be completed by a fixed date when the first 747 rolled out of the assembly plant onto the finishing hard stands. Pan American Airways had been promised the first commercial 747 by 1970 after all flight tests and the FAA certification and approval had been obtained. Bill Waters led the design and construction management of all grading, concrete paving, storm sewers, sanitary sewers, domestic water lines, fueling tanks and underground fuel lines to multiple hardstands, underground lighting for 24-hour work on the airplanes, the foundation and all utilities for the two paint hangars and most of the vital railroad spur up Japanese Gulch to the plant. The schedule was demanding and the entire office was placed on extended work hours to meet the deadlines for the Boeing project and other projects in the office. The first 747 rolled out on September 30, 1968 and the first flight was February 9, 1969. The 1970 Pan Am date was met and all those involved in the airplane design and manufacturing, and the development of the facilities were nicknamed by Boeing as the “Incredibles.”
Lakewood Water District
As Water and Waste Water Department Manager, Lyle Hassebroek developed the study and later the design contracts for providing sewers in a large area south of Tacoma. Other firms had been actively marketing the District who had provided engineering services for the water system. Lyle’s experience in all the related components of the Normandy Park sewerage system and the developing CH2M reputation influenced some of the directors including an officer in the Weyerhaeuser Timber Corporation. This was a “percent of construction cost” contract that became very profitable. (During this period, it was quite normal to utilize the American Society of Civil Engineers graph showing the relationships of engineering services to the final construction cost.) This project was in the $1 million range.
Seattle Storm Sewer Separation Project
The Seattle Storm Sewer Separation project began in 1968 and included the first computerized drafting attempt in CH2M. The project was a large portion of the City of Seattle where combined storm sewers and sanitary sewers existed. This overloaded the West Point Sewage Treatment Plant. Holly had been studying the computerized future of the firm and became acquainted with an engineering professor at New York Polytechnic University. He had applied a computerized drafting process to the utilities in the streets of New York City. Holly invited him to visit us in Seattle and this led to Paul Wyatrack, who became the Chief Engineer, City of Seattle, agreeing to have us try the new CAD program on our portion of the storm sewer separation project. I had negotiated a fixed-price contract of over $900,000 with Paul and he agreed to let us incorporate the CAD work into the contract. Dale King moved to Seattle to direct the project with the team located in the Skinner Building across Union Street from the Logan Building.
McCord Air Force Base Runway Expansion
We had developed contracts on McCord AFB for an engine degreasing facility and had become well acquainted with Don Cardin on the AFB engineering staff. This led to a successful acquisition of a design contract for the main N-S runway reconstruction. The soils investigation was reduced but a design was developed. Bill Waters negotiated the contracts and Vaughn Sterling in Corvallis was the design project engineer. After the design was complete, Bill, Vaughn and Jim Poirot would not accept the reduced fees expected by the Air Force, partly because we were concerned about possible peat bogs under the runway that could not have been found in the limited soils investigation. We refused to enter a contract for Services during Construction which led to the Air Force selecting another firm. Both the construction contractor and the engineering firm selected terminated their contracts because of extreme overruns caused by unknown peat bogs under the runway found during construction. Others completed the work for the Air Force on a cost plus basis.
City of Lacey Sewer System
Lyle Hassebroek and others developed contracts to provide sewers for most of Lacey, a city north of Olympia, WA. This was developed following similar procedures as at the Lakewood Water District and was similar in size.
Metro Water Resources Management Study
Starting in about 1970 Seattle Metro, King County, the City of Seattle and others became again concerned about pollution in Lake Washington and related waterways. This led to the formation of a special council to study the long-range pollution impacts from future development of land in the watershed. It was decided to study the quantity and quality forecasts of the lakes and streams. By utilizing the capabilities of the recent merger with Clair A. Hill and the knowledge of CH2M waste treatment specialists, CH2M HILL proposed the development of an extensive watershed model for the entire watershed. This included modeling land runoff, streams, lakes and estuaries. Seattle Metro was designated the implementing agency and Tom Gibbs, Executive Director, managed the project development. With Gene Suhr as Project Manager, Don Russell Administrative Manager, Ron Ott and Wes Blood (from Clair A. Hill) the watershed model experts, CH2M HILL was awarded the project. Jim Poirot served as principal in charge and the project became a major effort leading to numerous new hires in the now Bellevue office. One hire was Dr. Larry Burke, a marine biologist, who directed the lake and stream sampling, testing and modeling. This required considerable sampling and testing and the development of the first marine biology laboratory. Constantine Zadorojny was hired to manage the lab. Ron Ott had recently completed his PhD at Stanford helping to develop the Stanford Watershed Model, and Wes Blood had done the same at the University of Utah. These new experts and the entire team worked out of the Seattle office over the next two to three years to complete the project.
King County Solid Waste Master Plan
As the Water Resource Management Study was developing, the same regional council identified other regional engineering studies needed. One was the disposal of solid wastes throughout King County. Previous studies over many decades had considered incineration and other possibilities. CH2M HILL now had new capability in solid wastes by the hiring of Al Grimm who had led regional solid waste studies in the Los Angeles area. Utilizing this new expertise and the existing geotechnical and landfill experience, CH2M HILL proposed and was successful in being awarded the study.
Port of Seattle First Container Terminal
Frank Jenes, Assistant Chief Engineer at the Port of Seattle had been on the 1971 ASCE-ASME National Transportation Convention committee chaired by Jim Poirot. When container terminals started to become the primary shipping mode, the port decided to build its first container terminal at Pier 47 on the Seattle waterfront. The cranes and other equipment had been selected but the dock, land storage, rail lines and other supporting facilities needed to be planned, designed and constructed. Frank Jenes called this to our attention and encouraged us to propose. With Dick Foster the project engineer because of his geotechnical expertise and a support team in Seattle and Corvallis, the project was awarded to CH2M HILL in the early 1970s. This led to other container terminal proposals and projects along the West Coast of the U.S.
With the rapid growth in projects and staff as discussed above, the downtown Seattle location in three buildings became inefficient and expensive. The employees were also not happy with the commute time and the parking costs. Floyd Hill, Administrative Manager, began to study the situation. He looked at possibilities north, south and east of Seattle as well as possible larger space in downtown Seattle. He also mapped where people lived. It was decided that if we made a final decision early enough, people who were considering a move would have time to select homes near the new location and others could start to research their individual options. After these considerations, a decision was made about one year in advance to move to Bellevue in 1970 and into a new building under construction. This was the ten-story Business Center Building and the tallest in Bellevue. Two floors were leased with storage space on the lower level. Later space on the lower level was also leased for the marine biology laboratory. Although two floors were more than needed, the rate of growth made it desirable to lease the extra space to prevent separated operations as existed in downtown Seattle.
People in the Sixties
Barry Barnes came directly from Birmingham, England to Seattle in the fall of 1960. He was looking for Fred Merryfield because of contacts in England when he had worked for the Birmingham Water Authority. After he talked with Holly and me, he asked if he could work for us in Seattle doing anything until he proved that he could accomplish engineering work and petition for a license. Barry was soon successful in his Professional Engineering Licensing petition and spent the rest of his career at CH2M HILL in Seattle.
Lyle Hassebroek had joined CH2M in Corvallis soon after graduation at the University of Wisconsin. As described above, he was the Project Engineer on the design of the Normandy Park sewer system and then moved to Normandy Park to serve as Resident Engineer during construction. From Normandy Park, he served in Seattle as Department Manager, Division Manager, Assistant Regional Manager, Regional Manager and Northwest District Manager until 1983 when he moved to Atlanta to become the Eastern District Manager. He retired in Denver as President of CH2M HILL, Inc.
Carl Ryden joined CH2M in 1952 in Corvallis. Being a mechanical engineer and participating in the design and development of the FlowMatcher with Burke Hayes, he was a needed asset in Seattle in the mid 1960s to help on the utility systems, but also to lead industrial work and electric utility systems consulting along with the Zinder staff. . Carl was the Project Manager for the initial Boeing projects with a primary project at the Boeing Kent facility. He developed a close relationship with the Boeing Facilities Engineer, Bill Farley, which was a primary factor leading to CH2M being selected to design the outside facilities at the new Boeing 747 plant at Everett.
Bill Waters, having specialized in earth projects (Olally Dam for Georgia Pacific Pulp and Paper mill, street projects and soil explorations) moved to Seattle to be the principal in charge of the first major interstate highway project for the State of Washington at Vancouver. Bill had become a partner in the firm a few years before the incorporation in 1966 and was the needed strength to carry the responsibility for the first major state freeway project for CH2M. With Gordon Elliott controlling the design very well in the Vancouver project office, Bill was then assigned to lead the tremendous challenge of designing and managing construction of outside facilities at the all-new Boeing 747 plant at Everett, Washington in the late sixties. Bill then served on numerous other firm-wide projects including in Trinidad as resident engineer for the Port of Spain water system construction.
Dale King had been working from Corvallis on Holly’s Eastern Washington projects including the design of pre-stressed concrete water storage tanks at Richland and Wenatchee. When the Seattle Storm Sewer Separation project was obtained (see description above), it was decided that a senior engineer should be the Project Engineer and located in Seattle. Dale was selected and he assembled a design team in the Skinner Building across Union Street from the Logan Building. Dale remained based in Seattle but took on other assignments including foreign projects such as the Cairo, Egypt water system project.
After working for Peter Kiewit Construction Company, Mike Anglea decided to pursue a different career and returned to Washington State University to obtain a Masters degree. Upon graduation he contacted CH2M in 1967 and joined the Seattle staff as an environmental engineer. Mike helped on water and sewerage studies and became involved in many of the Seattle projects such as the Boeing facilities, and sewerage systems for Stevenson, Lacey and Lakewood. Later, Mike moved to Milwaukee to assist in the development of the regional office and then the mega project for the Milwaukee sewerage system.
Bill Johnson transferred to the Seattle office from Boise and previously Corvallis. He arrived in Seattle in the mid sixties and lived in North Seattle near me. When I was not traveling, I picked him up to ride together into downtown Seattle. At times when our going home schedule did not mesh, he would take a long bus ride home. Bill helped on many projects and became a specialist in port planning. He was the Project Engineer on the Port of Benton (Richland, WA) dock, the Port of Wenatchee industrial park, the Port of Olympia airport and waterfront plan, the Port of Garfield, on the Snake River development plan and others. He worked on Indian reservation utility projects on the Olympic peninsula and in Eastern Washington. These were all projects that were valuable in starting of a new office and before the large contracts were obtained.
Bud Vanderaa came to interview CH2M from the University of Illinois in the early 1960s. I remember his interest in the surveying program at Illinois. After an evening at our house and a good discussion, an offer was made to him to work in Seattle and he accepted. Bud served in numerous roles of any type and was an early benefit to the growth of the Seattle office.
During a lunch hour in the mid 1960s a young engineer came in the office and asked to see the office manager. Holly Cornell was not there but I was eating my lunch and said I would talk to the visitor. Phil Hall came in and said he was researching employment opportunities. He said he had graduated from Michigan with an M.S. in Sanitary Engineering and had decided to move west. He had spent two years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador working on village water systems and wanted to work in the field of Sanitary Engineering. He obtained a job with the Navy civil engineers in Seattle as way to research private engineering firms and had concluded that CH2M was where he wanted to work. I thanked him and gave him encouragement and, as I recall, he went back to work after lunch at the Navy. When Holly returned, I explained the visit and recommended that we hire him, which we did. Phil worked on many projects including the North Pole, Alaska sewerage master plan and then transferred to San Francisco to replace Wayne Phillips as the Regional Manager. Phil went on to become the Southwest District Manager and then Chairman of the Board.
Gordon Elliot was a highway engineer from Wyoming who was hired in Boise to design a freeway project near Boise. He moved to the Vancouver, Washington office to be project d\engineer on the I-205 bypass freeway around Vancouver. He then moved to the Seattle office to manage other freeway and bridge projects. His career led to many impressive bridge projects in the West and award-winning projects in California.
Maury Manning was a key engineering technician on Boise state highway projects and new the highway drafting standards. Having completed the Boise assignments in the mid 1960s he transferred with Gordon Elliot to the Vancouver, WA office to prepare the preliminary and final designs for the I-205 bypass around Vancouver. Upon completing this work he moved into the Seattle office and soon managed all the engineering technician work in Seattle. He later moved to Corvallis to manage similar work there.
Other engineers added in Seattle in the 1960s and early 1970s included Don Russell, Dwight Curry, Fred Kern, Dave Peterson, Pete Wiedeman, Dick Foster, Gary Graham, Norm Ward, Mike Doleac, Collie Martin and Jerry Boyle. Floyd Hill was hired as Administrative Manager in the mid sixties. After the first year or two, Dianne Cummins was hired to be the receptionist, secretary, mail processing clerk, billing processor and to help with other technical assistant tasks. This soon led to an extensive overload and Janet Nyberg was hired to assist her. Janet had a special interest in calculations and with Bud Vanderaa’s help, she calculated most of the Normandy Park sewer assessments.
The First 20 Years
Developing a personnel base and a series of large contracts in the ’60s and ’70s provided the capability and qualifications for proposing, being selected and accomplishing the mega-projects in the ’80s and ’90s. My involvement does not provide the whole story by far, but some of the largest contracts in the ’60s were obtained in Seattle. The growth of the Seattle office during its first ten years was considered remarkable at the time. Starting in 1960 by moving three people from Corvallis, Holly Cornell, Jim Poirot and Oscar Frial (an architectural technician), the office grew to where the staff was located in three buildings in downtown Seattle by 1969 and was then consolidated into one building in Bellevue in 1970. When I became the Seattle regional manager in 1967, we were beginning to step up the pace and soon acquired the key large contracts that required considerable staff expansion (Seattle Storm Sewer Separation, Boeing 747 Plant and the SW Suburban Water District Sewer System).
The 1970s started off with a bang also. To my misfortune, I suffered a mild heart attack in 1970 which created a series of health issues for the rest of my career. Even so, the Seattle and Corvallis staff with some of the newly merged staff from Redding soon acquired major studies from Seattle Metro for creating computer models of the river basins through the lakes and metropolitan areas of Seattle. Also, a major solid waste disposal study was obtained from Seattle Metro. Other significant projects included the City of Lacey sewer system, the Yakima water treatment plant, the Port of Seattle first container terminal and numerous municipal and other projects.
John Mayo, former Yakima, WA City Engineer then Public Works Director, joined CH2M HILL in the mid 1970s and was given responsibility to further develop projects in eastern Washington. It was concluded that an eastern Washington office was needed to obtain many of the potential projects and to provide better service. John Mayo recommended an office in Spokane in 1977 with him being the office manager, but initially working also in Bellevue and from his home near Yakima. The Spokane office was started in downtown Spokane in an older building and consisted of two rooms, a receptionist/ secretary area and a manager’s office with work tables and desks. The initial operation used the adjacent company to answer the phones when John was gone and there was no other hired staff. Soon, new projects were obtained and a full time manager and staff were added.
When the firm was organized into districts in 1975, the Seattle Office became the headquarters for the Northwest District which included the states of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Western Canada. Jim Poirot was appointed the NW District Manager. In 1978 when Jim also became the SW District Manager, Lyle Hassebroek became the Seattle Regional Manager. A Canadian office in Calgary was initiated with Steve Lackey moving to Calgary which soon became a permanent office. An office in Juneau, Alaska which came with the Clair A. Hill merger was soon closed and the Anchorage office was designated the permanent Alaskan office.
Seattle Sonics First Season Tickets
After the second year (1968) of the Sonics in Seattle, the newly drafted players solicited the downtown businesses to buy season tickets. A forward named Bob Kauffman stopped by our office in the Logan Building and asked to speak to the manager. After I visited with him for a while and he explained the easy payment plan, we decided to buy four tickets for use in entertaining clients and other guests. The seats purchased then were in a very good location near mid court and up about ten rows. In 1978, the Sonics moved to the King Dome for a few years and the seats were also very good. The client use plan worked out very well and the tickets were in demand. Later in the mid-seventies, Raeda and I bought two additional tickets which we used continuously except when I traveled and then we gave them to clients or others in the firm. When I moved to Atlanta in 1980, these were renewed by the firm. They were also very good seats.
Lenny Wilkins’ Sister:
In the late ’70s when we were located in the Bell Field Office Park, CH2M HILL hired Lenny Wilkins’ sister as a receptionist. Lenny decided to move all his family to the Seattle area when he was coach and his sister applied at CH2M HILL. She was a very pleasant person and fun to have around. This only lasted about a year when it was mutually decided that she should not stay with us.
Seattle Seahawks First Season Tickets
In 1977 when the Kingdome was completed, the first pro football team, the Seattle Seahawks, began to announce the ticket sale plan. There was strong interest in CH2M HILL to purchase as many as allowed for clients and employee use. We placed an early order for the maximum which was 20. Raeda played tennis often with Fran Nordstrom on Mercer Island who was the wife of Bruce Nordstrom, one of the Seahawks owners. Fran said she could also help us buy tickets, so Raeda asked her to place another order for 20 tickets in case we were not successful through normal channels. The tickets were all sold out in two or three days. CH2M HILL was successful and we then had two orders of 20 each or a total of 40 tickets. We decided to buy all 40 and sell 20 each year to employees. Before long, the client demand was too great and after 3-4 years all 40 tickets were used to host client groups. Employees could only use them if they hosted clients. Those purchasing the tickets from CH2M HILL were not enamored by having to give up their tickets for client use.
During the Kingdome construction, the original contractor, Drake Construction from Portland, stopped work because they claimed the lightweight concrete roof could not be constructed as designed. Litigation followed and Bob Hahn, structural engineer at CH2M HILL, was hired as an expert witness. Bob was an expert in concrete silo design for grain elevators, had considerable light weight concrete experience and served on professional concrete committees. The court concluded the Kingdome roof could be constructed as designed and Peter Kiewit was selected to complete the project.
Although most of our traveling was by car, we often would fly on West Coast Airlines. I had ownership in a family airplane for over 40 years and also would occasionally fly my airplane to eastern Washington and Corvallis. Although the Alaska flights were jets and flew from SeaTac, West Coast Airlines flew out of Boeing field and mostly used DC 3 airplanes. A few F 27 pressurized airplanes were used but not to Yakima, Pasco and along the coast. The parking lot was just outside the door at Boeing Field and the airplanes were out the other side, making it very convenient compared to today. There was a morning flight to Pendleton that flew out of SeaTac by United Airlines and it was a Convair with propjet engines. It had a contract to take mail to Pendleton each day and also had many passenger seats. One morning I went to the flight and when I arrived at the plane, the crew had laid out a long red carpet at the bottom of the stairs that went about 50 feet from the airplane. At the top of the steps the entire crew of two pilots and one “Stewardess” were standing and saluting me. As I arrived at the top the Captain said “Welcome to your private flight to Pendleton”. I asked what this was all about and he said I was the only passenger and they had some champagne on board to celebrate. I thanked them and we had a very nice flight. Soon after, they cancelled further flights to Pendleton.
Interstate 5 had not been constructed until about 1968. Holly and I lived near the north King County line and used Highway 99 which had many stop lights, as today, and many accidents. It normally took 45 minutes to go each way without accidents. When I was not traveling and on a normal schedule, I would pick up Bill Johnson who had transferred to Seattle from Boise and lived not far from me. One winter day when the snow was bad, our trip took from a very early start until noon. At one point we were going three blocks per hour.
First Christmas Party
All the staff went to Corvallis in 1960 for the first Christmas party. We all rode in the two firm cars, five in Holly’s car and six in the car I drove which was a Ford Falcon. The next year was a dinner in a small private room in the Washington Athletic Club which was around the corner on Sixth and Union.
Having only one electric calculator in 1967, we entered an agreement with Boeing Computer Services to try small computer programs. The data was entered on a Teletype machine in our office and the results were sent back on the Teletype. Accounting work was all accomplished in Corvallis on new IBM 1130 computers. Data was sent and entered on punch cards. Later, DEC 10 machines replaced the IBM 1130 computers in Corvallis.
The Teamsters and Mafia
While accomplishing the contract to develop a Solid Waste Plan for King County in 1971-73, Raeda and I purchased our first boat. It was a Cruise-a-Home that we purchased at Chris Craft on Lake Union. We moored it there for the first month or two and there was a beautiful boat moored under cover next to us. As our younger son, Ronald, was helping us wash our boat, the owner of the beautiful boat asked if Ron could be hired to help them wash and clean their boat. Ron was about 13 years old then and was a good worker. We said OK and Ron became quite friendly with them. One day the owner, Frank Matula, asked us to go to lunch with him and his wife which we did. While having lunch, Frank asked if we thought it would be all right if Ron went with them as a deck hand on trip into Canadian waters for a month or so. As we were talking, Raeda asked who all would be going on the trip. Frank said it would just be him and a good friend who turned out to be Joe Bonanno, one of the New York Mafia bosses. Raeda said we would have to think about when we were going on vacation and let him know. We later told him we would also be gone then.
The next day, I called a Rotarian friend who was an FBI agent and told him the story. He said to keep the conversation with him confidential and to not let Ron go anywhere with either of them, fully explaining why. Frank had told us that he was one of the three Trustees of the Teamsters Union and was in Seattle often having meetings with the unions including the possible new Teamster unionization of the Seattle and King County garbage truck operators.
During the same period, Ron was flying model airplanes with a neighbor boy on Mercer Island. One evening, the boy’s father invited me to go along with them to a field to fly the airplanes which I did. While there he explained that his family owned one of the two land fills used by the area garbage handlers and knew that CH2M HILL was studying the future disposal sites. He wanted to know about our views and how he could be assured their site would be given priority. He was aware of the Teamsters in the area trying to organize the truckers and wanted to be sure he was informed about our study. I explained that I was not the project manager and did not know much about the project. I also said all contacts should be made through the King County officials and that public meetings would be held to obtain all information applicable to the study.
My Rotary friend and I talked almost every day and he continually said not to mention our discussions with anyone else. He said they had followed Frank Matula every day and that it was obvious to him that they were exploring all possibilities to organize. After a few weeks, I was informed that Frank had moved his boat back to his home in San Diego and that they had not been successful in Seattle. I had moved our boat to a different marina and was not in contact any more with any of them. I had told Holly Cornell but no other person as requested by the FBI.
1965 Gold Cup Hydroplane Races
I had been going to Dr. Randy Pillow at the Virginia Mason Clinic for my annual aviation medical examination. Early in 1965, he asked if our engineering firm had the ability to make signs! There were about 20 committee boats required to work the hydroplane races on Lake Washington. 1965 was an important year for the annual Seattle hydroplane races because this was the Super Bowl of the annual race circuit. The winning city of the previous year hosted the next year Gold Cup Races and a Seattle boat had won in 1964. The 20 boats needed to have cloth signs noting that they were “Official Boats” so that others could be controlled and only these boats could be working the racing area.
I agreed to look into the possibility and talked Oscar Frial about ideas. Oscar was enthused and wanted to volunteer his time to make them. We decided to buy gold-colored oil cloth and paint brown letters on them. I proposed this to Dr. Pillow and he agreed. I was appointed to the Race Committee and attended the monthly then weekly meetings at the Seattle Yacht Club. Oscar and I received passes to the pit areas and at certain times to the official barge to observe the races and other activities. I still have my race committee badge and four or five of the annual 1965 hydroplane pins. (If anyone in Seattle wants these or knows of a use for them, I will give them to you.)
Ten-hour work days + Saturdays
A standard work schedule to include Saturdays had not been official since about 1953 in Corvallis. Because of the demanding schedule to meet the new Boeing 747 plant completions schedule, the entire Seattle office was placed on a standard extended hour schedule in 1968. Boeing required all facilities to be completed by a fixed date when the first 747 rolled out of the assembly plant onto the finishing hard stands. Bill Waters led the design and construction management of all grading, concrete paving, storm sewers, sanitary sewers, domestic water lines, fueling tanks and underground fuel lines to multiple hardstands, underground lighting for 24-hour work on the airplanes, the foundation and all utilities for the two paint hangars and most of the vital railroad spur into the plant. Realizing there was not enough time and staff, as manager of the Seattle office, I instituted a standard 10-hour work day with a dinner brake and an 8-hour Saturday schedule for the entire office for over a month near the end of the tight schedule. Our work met the Boeing deadlines in 1968, thanks to Bill’s constant attention.
Seattle 1962 World’s Fair
Construction was underway at the new Seattle Center for the coming World’s Fair when we arrived in 1960. The massive concrete pour for the foundation of the Space Needle, the Monorail piers, the Coliseum and many buildings were being constructed. Once completed in 1962, we had many visitors wanting to see us and also the World’s Fair. It was amazing how Corvallis people wanted to come to Seattle instead of us traveling to Corvallis. The city culture also changed because of certain shows at the fair. The Gracie Hanson Follies created a draw and resulted in a relaxed view of the “ladies of the street.” For awhile women were soliciting their services to men at all times of the day, even below our office on the streets. At least one followed a client into the Logan Building, up the elevator and to the entrance of our office “selling” her services all the way. Also, the city allowed topless waitresses for a few weeks until the protests caused the city to reverse its decision. Our hosting of clients and others made every day a long day. The fair created a new “signature” for Seattle – the Space Needle.
CH2M Flying Clubs
I had formed the Skylark Flying Club in Corvallis in 1956 and there were 15 original members. The club lasted for over 20 years and owned 7 different airplanes. In 1969, a flying club was formed in Seattle with 10 members. They purchased a used two-place airplane for training purposes, a Cessna 150, and parked it at the Renton airport. Some of the members were Art Storbo, Lyle Hassebroek, Mike Hamilton, and Raeda Poirot. Mike Hamilton was the first to obtain his private license and Raeda was the second. She had started her flying lessons in Fairbanks, Alaska with me in 1955, but stopped the lessons when the family came along.
These memories may be utilized as appropriate now, but will be further reviewed and expanded as others remember interesting details. As with all memories, there may be differences, but there will be agreement on most of the items described above. Any clear corrections will be noted in future drafts.