February 2024 Vol. 79 No. 2

Editor's Log

Editor’s Log: Industry honors and celebrations

by Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

(UI) — It’s officially awards season for the underground infrastructure industry with some amazing people, projects and technology being cited for market contributions. 

I’ve been fortunate to be right in the middle of all the awards hoopla as Underground Infrastructure magazine – as is its tradition – remains very much embedded, involved and trusted by industry members to help manage these stand-out programs.  

We’re fortunate to have four major programs all held in conjunction with the Underground Infrastructure Conference (UIC): MVP, HDD Hall of Fame, HDD Reunion and the Underground Infrastructure Awards.  


Since 1996, what is now the Underground Construction Technology Association, in partnership with Underground Infrastructure, has been honoring the “most valuable person” of the underground infrastructure market. That first winner was Art Kidder, then with the city of Houston, for his in-the-field leadership during the first Houston consent decree of the early ‘90s.  

That time was notable as it was the first billion-dollar-plus program guided by the EPA, and both the money and the scope of the consent decree was unheard of at the time. How Houston responded by restructuring historic approaches, embracing new (at the time) trenchless methods and coordinating a record-setting program was simply incredible. Behind the scenes, Buddy Barnes, Gary Oradat and Henry Gregory managed what was, then, an incredibly complicated and aggressive program. Kidder coordinated the execution of the plan flawlessly. 

Now, the 29th MVP Award will be bestowed to Russ Ford, a noted infrastructure expert. In his career, he has crafted countless friendships and business relationships while proving invaluable in helping solve critical problems for a host of cities around the country.  

He has established 41-years of progressive engineering, supervisory/managerial and administrative/executive experience. This involved the various aspects of municipal planning, operations, design, construction and management, in the water/wastewater transportation and treatment, stormwater drainage and raw water transmission segments.  

Gary Oradat, executive manager of planning, design and construction administration for the Trinity Water Authority and previous MVP awardee (2022), said “Russ was involved with UCT at its very beginning. It’s hard to think of anyone who has been more involved in advocating for new (and better) pipeline products and construction methods which, at the time, were considered innovative.” 

The MVP Award Luncheon will be held on Tuesday, March 19, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Oklahoma City Convention Center in conjunction with the annual Underground Infrastructure Conference. For more information, go to ui-conference.com or uctaonline.org/event-5408112. 

Underground Infrastructure Awards

Industry-wide achievements, ranging from projects to innovative technology, will be honored the evening of Tuesday, March 19, at the OKC Convention Center.  

The annual Underground Infrastructure Awards (UIA) is the most comprehensive and prestigious program to recognize outstanding performance and technology for the entire industry. Finalists will be honored and winners celebrated at a special evening reception and dinner on March 19. 

This event has quickly become acclaimed at the most respected industry awards program. 

Sponsored by Underground Infrastructure magazine, the UIAs will be held in tandem with the Underground Infrastructure Conference at the Oklahoma City Convention Center.  

Awards categories in 2024 include: 

Emerging Technology of the Year  

Energy Pipeline Project of the Year  

Rehabilitation Project of the Year  

Asset Management Project of the Year  

Sewer Project of the Year 

Underground Infrastructure’s Benefactor Award  

Water Project of the Year  

Environmental Awareness Award  

Rising Star  

For more information, visit UC-Awards.com. Register to attend at ui-conference.com/registration. 

HDD Reunion, Hall of Fame

On Wednesday, March 20, also at the OKC Convention Center, will be the bi-annual HDD Reunion and Hall of Fame celebration.   

The HDD Reunion was first held in 2020 at the Fort Worth Convention Center, as was the initial HDD Hall of Fame, when industry founding legends Martin Cherrington and Dick Melsheimer were honored as the inaugural class.  

We knew it was a great idea to reunite the HDD industry, but we had no idea just how popular it would be. The crowd was lined up for an hour to get into the ballroom; the bars were constantly restocked; and we finally told the kitchen to just keep the food coming, as it disappeared just as fast as it was delivered. The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd had a spectacular time.  

This year’s reunion and honoring of the HDD Hall of Fame Class of 2024 is shaping up to be another amazing event. The Class of 2024 will honor six outstanding industry leaders and legends: J. Marcus Laney (Laney Inc.), Mary Andringa (Vermeer), Ed Malzahn (Charles Machine Works/Ditch Witch), Steve Akerman (C&S Directional Boring), Jim Agnew (InRock), and Curtis Allen (Baroid). 

More information is available at ui-conference.com, or email Karen Francis: Karen@UndergroundInfrastructure.com. To sponsor this incredible event, contact Josh@UndergroundInfrastructure.com 

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