From the field Conservation Featured

Faces of Restoration: Mike Tezak Construction

RepYourWater on the Colorado River.

TU works with some extremely talented characters while developing and completing projects in the field that help make fishing better. We are excited to bring you a series highlighting these Contractors. We hire equipment operators, truck drivers, laborers, material suppliers, engineers, technicians, and water testing labs. They are unique, talented, humble and some are downright wild, but TU’s Contractors are a driving force behind successful projects.  

Many of these projects help maintain the livelihood for some of the smaller outfits that are common in rural towns where many of our projects take place.  

In Oregon, for example, we are working on a “Salmon Superhighway” to open rivers to spawning fish and protect against flood damage. By replacing nearly 100 road crossings over 10 years, we are creating hundreds of jobs, investing $34 million into county roads and river infrastructure, and contributing $54 million to the local economy.  

For one recent project in Montana to restore a section of Cedar Creek in Lolo National Forest, 96 percent of the $486,033 budget went to local firms, which put a dozen people to work on the job. Our friends at American Rivers recently produced a report that found ecological restoration creates 226,000 jobs and contributes $25 billion to the economy.  

TU project managers take pride in fostering these relationships, building community, and hiring local, when possible. So, let the highlights of these fine people begin.   

Submitted by Jason Willis, Colorado AML Project Manager

Last week marked the beginning of the second construction project of 2020 for TU’s Colorado abandoned mine land (AML) program. Mike Tezak Construction was the selected contractor for our Tiger Mine project outside of Leadville, CO and Nathan Tezak was nice enough to allow me to take a picture, thus beginning the Contractor Blog Series.  

Nathan Tezak posing for an elusive picture next to the family namesake. Mike Tezak Construction out of the bustling metropolis of Texas Creek, CO.  

It is fitting that the first blog is about a contractor I met at the beginning of my TU career, Nathan Tezak. You could almost say that Nathan and I “grew-up” together over the past nine years. I say that because Nathan and I were in our mid-20s when we first met on a stream restoration job on Kerber Creek in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. His dad, Mike, was the man in charge of Mike Tezak Construction who ended up winning the job for the pre-bid we were all attending that day back in 2011.

Mike was one of four brothers who, ironically enough, all decided to get into the heavy equipment business. Road and bridge, highways, tire cleanups, burned area reclamation, AML projects, rock quarries — you name it, and the Tezak’s have done it all. I think it’s safe to say that Nathan might have been pre-determined to handle a piece of big iron based on his family history. 

Nathan, like his Dad, is soft spoken with a gentle giant persona and appearance. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree between Mike and Nathan because both are incredible operators with a combination of skill and finesse. If you’ve ever watched someone poorly operate an excavator or piece of heavy equipment (like me), it’s like pulling teeth watching them try to set a rock at the right angle or nearly knock over the only historically significant structure on site. Yes, that happened so I’m speaking from experience. Well, that’s not Mike or Nathan. It’s almost like the saying, “You have to go slow to go fast.” Everything is intentional, which is incredibly appreciated from a project manager’s perspective.   

Nathan solidifying mine waste with Portland cement prior to capping with clean soil. The Portland cement binds any heavy metals making them unavailable to groundwater and downstream water sources.  

Nathan and his dad are the type of folks you just click with right off the bat and connect with even after not seeing one another for a couple years. Come to think of it, a lot of my contractors are like that and I feel it’s a quality and trait of the small towns. There is always meaningful conversation, life stories, firework escapades … you name it. I appreciate that interaction and it becomes a personal thing for me as well; hiring and giving local people a chance to do meaningful work and make an honest wage for their families. My bid walks these days almost resemble family reunions — catching up about kids, trucks, dogs or even having multiple dogs on the walk. Mike and Nathan are a great example of hard-working, no-BS Contractors that embody the work that TU takes on across Colorado and the U.S. 

Stay tuned for future tales from a TU construction site.    

By Kara Armano. After inheriting the fishing bug from her dad at a young age, fly fishing has taken a central part in Kara's life for over 30…