As an erosion control specialist, Richard Dunbar has spent decades being among the first on the scene of a new development and then arrives to mitigate disasters that may occur on established development. “Doing erosion control, we’re usually the first in on the project before the grading starts, so our job is to keep the developer out of trouble by making sure the stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) is kept in place and that we don’t have anything leaving the site that will result in fines,” notes Dunbar, general manager of the erosion control division of Oakridge Landscape in Valencia, CA. The company has more than 500 employees who provide around-the-clock services in construction, maintenance, arbor care, erosion control, and design from four offices. In addition to helping new developers follow regulatory requirements, the company has been heavily involved in helping to protect established properties following the fires and floods that struck southern California in early 2018 through intense dust control and hydroseeding efforts. “We do a lot of weed abatement in the off season for the fire department and the counties to help prevent damage,” notes Dunbar. “After the devastation such as we had, we try to protect the land so we don’t have more disasters from the mudslides.” Other jobs have included beach erosion projects, such as when the company constructed berms of burlap sandbags to help Malibu residents protect their properties, as well as maintenance. Dunbar has worked 37 years in the construction industry, of which 20 have been in high-rise construction and general contracting, and the last 17 specializing in erosion control and SWPPPs. He says he is committed to raising awareness in the community and industry about the importance of managing SWPPPs. He spearheads SWPPP training for his staff using the International Erosion Control Association’s (IECA’s) best practices manual to ensure all employees are current on new regulations regarding SWPPP codes. “We didn’t do a lot of containing all of the sediment and runoff back in the day, and now developers are finally getting on board with it,” says Dunbar. “A lot of people still don’t understand it. They think erosion and sediment control is just sandbags. Our job is to go out there and keep them safe and educate them about what has to be done and be there for them.”
What He Does Day to Day
After leaving his house in the morning en route to the office, Dunbar stops at job sites to check on projects and crews a few times a week. When he’s not in the field, he’s in the office working on the paperwork and planning required to provide clients with erosion control. On the weekends, Dunbar volunteers for the National Ski Patrol in an effort to keep the public safe, providing medical assistance and maintaining the natural resources of the Big Bear Mountain ski areas.
What Led Him Into This Line of Work
Dunbar earned an associate’s degree in business management from Los Angeles Valley College, where he also studied fire science. He came to erosion control work through a friend who was cognizant of his industry experience in grading, carpentry, and “building houses from the ground up,” he says. His friend hired him to take care of the company’s erosion control sector. Dunbar went on to work as an erosion control division manager for another large landscaping company. He holds certificates as an erosion and sediment control inspector and had previously trained as a journeyman in all phases of carpentry and construction.
What He Likes Best About His Work
Although Dunbar never did pursue his original desire to become a firefighter, he says he believes that what he does now is akin to that work in that he is “protecting people and trying to prevent disasters.”
His Greatest Challenge
Dunbar—who originally got into the industry by literally digging ditches—says his greatest challenge is shared by most in the industry: trying to find the best employees. “The trades are really struggling,” he points out. “Everybody is going to the technology stuff. Nobody wants to get out there and physically do the labor anymore.”