Case Studies

Burdick Excavating Co. Inc.

Family business provides three decades of service to environmental construction projects

Over the past three decades, Burdick Excavating Co., Inc. has become a premier excavation contractor, specializing in environmental projects for the public sector. Burdick Excavating bids to federal, state and local agencies, and travels and sets up its administrative offices on the projects throughout northern California and Nevada focusing on the very environmentally sensitive Lake Tahoe Basin. Through winter months, out of the building season in the Tahoe basin, Burdick has traveled to Ventura, California to stabilize oceanfront parks, and to Sacramento, California to restore an existing creek while developing a 9 acre park, as well as providing utility updates for public agencies at lower elevations with fewer restrictions.

Burdick Excavating Co. Inc.

Founded by owners Linda and Randy Burdick, Burdick Excavating was incorporated in 1983 and started out by serving private clients. The company initially provided foundation work with Randy operating the backhoe, and Linda driving the dump truck.  The couple quickly realized that public works projects with a Woman Owned Business certification, were advantageous and came with a set of specifications that protected the contractor, so they moved to public works.  Burdick Excavating has now grown to approximately 45 employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than 30 years. The company also now focuses on the highly competitive public works sector, competing with publically-owned companies such as Granite Construction, and Q&D with 1,500 employees, giving Burdick Excavating a “David and Goliath” complex.

Public works

With federal funding going toward sustainable and environmentally friendly construction efforts, Burdick Excavating specializes in environmental projects, including stream restoration, fish ladders, drainage remediation, erosion control projects, bike trails, bank stabilization and downtown revitalization. A majority of its work is located in the Lake Tahoe Basin, where funds have been allocated to help restore and maintain the clarity of Lake Tahoe. During his administration, President Bill Clinton allocated $30 million to water quality projects, and the Federal Highway Administration has recently committed $60 million for bike trails and environmental enhancement projects.

Due to a plethora of agencies involved and constant modifications to regulations, environmental projects present numerous challenges. There are also numerous environmental agencies involved, enforcing environmental mandates. “Regulations are a constant facet of public works in the Tahoe basin,” says Linda. “The agencies are very strict and because of local environmental mandates, we only have a six-month window from May to October that we can work.”

One of the company’s most significant projects is the Upper Truckee River Stream Environmental Zone Restoration Project for the City of S. Lake Tahoe and California Tahoe Conservancy. With the Upper Truckee River flowing too fast and causing increased soil erosion along its banks, an excess of sediment was being deposited when it entered Lake Tahoe. The intention of the project was to slow down the velocity of water, and restore a natural, aesthetically pleasing body of water.

The project took a section of the river from a classic, straight and deep man-made channel that had been constructed in the 1950s to make way for the Lake Tahoe Airport runway, and replaced it with a shallow, man-made river that now meanders, thereby reducing sediment, creating a fertile environment for native vegetation and fish habitat.

The project involved creation about two-thirds of a mile of new river channel that ran parallel to the existing river, as well as revegetated and armored the banks,” says Linda. “The new channel was configured with an undulating approach to the lake to slow it down. The flood plain is 17 acres and we revegetated and cultivated that entire area, in addition to installing a temporary bridge for access to both sides of the existing river.”

The Upper Truckee River Stream Environment Zone Restoration Project earned Burdick Excavating the 2011 Best in Basin Award in the Restoration Project category. The Best in Basin Awards are presented annually by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which sets policy for development around Lake Tahoe. Burdick has received more than two dozen awards that recognize organizations in multiple categories for stewardship and care taken in the building and construction of environmental projects around Lake Tahoe.

When the recession hit in 2008, the construction industry took the brunt of the repercussions. Many construction companies were forced to downsize while others had to shut their doors completely. Burdick Excavating was not immune to the effects of the economic downturn, but has seen a rebound in the past few years. “We had some rough years from 2008 to 2012,” says Linda. “Everything presently seems to be recovering. There is a lot of federal and state money that is coming into these environmental projects.”

Another challenge that Burdick Excavating faces is the large nationwide construction companies coming into the Lake Tahoe area, and creating difficulties for smaller firms to compete. An overwhelming aspect that a small construction firm faces is the everyday costs associated with the business that exists even before generating any revenue. Burdick Excavating has been able to combat this by remaining frugal, continuing to provide a quality product and service, and maintaining relationships within the industry.

A key factor to the success of Burdick Excavation has been the family environment created as the company establishes its base of operations for each job. With three generations on the ground, including Burdick’s son-in-law and grandson, the close-knit operation maintains strong communication and coordination, which enables Burdick Excavating Co., Inc. the ability to remain a leader in the local industry.

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