Post-03 – Last week you met the Inventor of Subsurface Utility Engineering, Garon Stutzman. This week I want to introduce you to the Father of Subsurface Utility Engineering, James H. Anspach.

Jim Anspach was one of the outstanding people Garon Stutzman hired almost immediately after forming his company.  Jim bought into Garon’s ideas and developed them into what they are today.  What they are today is documented in the ASCE’s Standard Guideline for Investigating and Documenting Existing Utilities (ASCE 38-22), for which Jim was the primary author and which was recently published by the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

Finding utilities within an 8-inch window proved to be challenging in the old urban environment around Washington. More and more water and gas lines were made of non-conductive materials and frequently multiple utilities were in close proximity to each other. Garon Stutzman had been attending classes in utility locating techniques given by Jim Anspach, a Penn State geophysicist specializing in civil applications for geophysics. Subsequently, Jim helped Garon negotiate an agreement with Media General in 1983 whereby So-Deep would utilize appropriate surface geophysics to identify subsurface utilities in advance of construction. Additionally, So-Deep would use their surface geophysics and their air/vacuum excavation for cable road bores. Jim left Penn State and joined So-Deep to manage this contract and stayed with them for many years.

I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit, but I worked with Jim a lot during the 1990s. I travelled with him to many places where he was going to make a presentation and he talked about SUE all the way there and all the way back. His presentations were always outstanding and as many times as I heard him say the same things, I always without fail learned something new each time. I didn’t understand a lot of what Jim was saying, but pondered on it, and felt like every time I began to understand some concept, he had moved ahead to something else. It was a great educational experience for me.

One time Jim invited me to attend a presentation with him in Olympia, Washington, and suggested I fly to Portland, Oregon, where he would meet me and take me to his house in the nearby mountains.  He picked me up at the airport in a sporty little convertible and we rode to his mountain house with the top down. We were met there by his wife, Laura, who welcomed me with open arms. It was a fabulous house surrounded almost entirely by national forest. Jim had designed the house himself with lots of open space and lots of windows. Jim showed me his collection of crystals, the barn where they kept Laura’s horses, and the government controlled irrigation ditch that ran across his property. That evening Laura fixed us a nice dinner and later we walked up some stairs to a platform on the roof and watched the stars, all of which Jim knew by name. The next morning we travelled in Jim’s convertible, this time with the top up because it was cold, to Olympia and Jim gave me a geological history of the mountain rocks. It was all pretty awesome. 

Jim initiated and/or developed many advances in SUE before I knew him in the 1980’s. As I’m sure many of you know, SUE really is so much more than a pipe and cable locator and a vacuum truck. We will take a look at some of those advances next week.

Post 3 - Jim Anspach - History of SUE