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Martin Cherrington and the First HDD River Crossing Adapted from Information by PilotTrack and Cherrington Corporation In the 1960s, Martin Cherrington was ahead of his time when he envisioned Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) as a practical alternative to conventional trenching methods. Working with his father in the construction industry early in his career, Cherrington gained firsthand experience on dams, tunnels, pipelines, telephone, and power cable projects. While working on projects in California, he realized there might be a better way to use drilling technology to place cables and conduits underground more efficiently. Cherrington built his first drill rig in 1964 and formed Titan Contractors, a company specializing in utility road boring in Sacramento, California. His unique skills and preparation coincided with perfect timing of events. A building boom in Sacramento coupled with a national movement to clean up America sponsored by “Lady Bird” Johnson, President Lyndon Johnson’s wife, motivated the local community and its utilities to take action. To comply with the First Lady's beautification decree, the County of Sacramento mandated all utilities be placed underground. With streets, sidewalks, curbs, and gutters already in place in many new subdivisions, Titan Contractors was presented an exclusive business opportunity. The local power company, Sacramento Municipal Utility District contracted Titan Contractors to drill in new underground cables throughout its service area. The workload volume was so great several new rigs had to be built to keep up with demand. Road boring to install essential utilities was the beginning of things to come. A new era in the history of drilling would start with Cherrington’s next mission. In 1971, he was working for Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) drilling gas lines in Watsonville, California. PG&E was fascinated by Cherrington’s innovative tactics and asked him to investigate another minor issue they were having while he was in town. If he could drill beneath the Pajaro River, PG&E would like to have a four-inch gas pipeline installed across the river. According to Cherrington, it was considered “no man's land” at the time since no one had ever undertaken such a task. There were no locators on the market, or even in development; however, Cherrington thought about a curious phenomenon which often plagued drilling contractors, and wondered if it might hold the key to this project. He knew some types of drill stem tool configurations had a tendency to drill upwards into existing substructures and come out unexpectedly in the middle of busy streets. These tools were discarded as design failures. Cherrington took some of these castoff tools for a test run at the Feather River a few miles north of Sacramento. The Feather River was chosen due to its sand and soil characteristics being similar to the Pajaro River. His tests confirmed using the optimum entry angle, proper drilling techniques, and the right downhole tool assembly, a large barrier such as a river could be crossed successfully with HDD. After about a month of working on the Pajaro River, Cherrington and his crew broke through to the other side. The project proved his concept and introduced HDD to the world. “Everyone thinks it was the first river crossing ever done,” said Cherrington. “Because it was a one-time occurrence, I thought it wouldn’t happen again.” As it turned out, word of Cherrington's success spread quickly, and he was soon hired to do an even larger river crossing in Louisiana. Titan Contractors went on to install a 40-inch-diameter pipeline in Houston, Texas, in 1979, which was the most excellent diameter crossing ever undertaken at the time. According to Cherrington, HDD did not become a household name until about ten years after the initial river crossing. He returned to Sacramento in 1984, and created Cherrington Corporation, a company specializing in HDD for fiber-optic installations. He continued pushing the limits of HDD technology and holds many patents which have led to great advancements in the industry. Cherrington’s accomplishment at the Pajaro River made what was perceived as impossible, the standard for placing pipelines and conduits in sensitive areas. Today, crossing rivers and oceans with HDD is part of the routine. Martin Cherrington and his Titan rig. Courtesy of Cherrington Corporation. DIR In 2020, Martin Cherrington (left) and fellow industry pioneer Dick Melsheimer (right) were the first inductees into the HDD Hall of Fame. WWDR photo. 48 SEPTEMBER 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource®