Book chronicles local construction milestones

By: Kristine GuerraGold Country News Service
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Placer County area landmarks are featured as parts of history in a recently published book. “Breaking Ground: The History of Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3” tells the 70-year history of the union. The book features stories told by retired union members, including some who had worked on construction projects throughout the Placer County area. “With many former officers and general members interviewed, the book details the major projects, major milestones, federal and state politics that impacted Local 3 and the internal politics and corruption that happened over those 70 years,” said co-author Charlie Costello. Featured are photographs and stories about the construction of Foresthill Bridge, Clementine Dam, Interstate 80 and Highway 65. Retired Local 3 members share their stories as construction workers helping build those landmarks. Former Oroville resident Kenneth Bettis, who now lives in Chico, described helping to build the Foresthill Bridge in the 1970s an “eventful job.” “It (Foresthill Bridge) made it easier on the people that lived up in Foresthill,” Bettis said. “(People) don’t have to drive down the canyon.” Auburn resident and retired crane operator Paul Yeoman said he moved to Auburn in 1968 to help build the Auburn Dam, but ended up helping to rebuild and rewiden I-80 from 1987 to 1989. Yeoman also helped rebuild the bridges on Elm Avenue, Maple and Railroad streets, Russell Road and Highway 49. “(Those bridges) actually connected Auburn together a lot more,” Yeoman said. “(People) got more access from the freeway and in between Highway 49 and Elm Street.” Yeoman said the bridges diverted a lot of traffic from the freeway and made driving easier and safer in Auburn. Bill Marshall, retired crane operator and former union business representative in the Auburn area, said the rebuilding of I-80 made trips to Auburn faster. “It saved a lot of emissions that people would’ve been exposed to,” said Marshall, who has been a union member for 52 years. The Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 represents more than 40,000 members, who work and have worked as heavy equipment operators and construction workers, maintenance workers and police officers. Costello said researching and writing of the book took more than five years. The book is now available through MT Publishing Company, Inc. To buy the book, go to Local 3 members have worked on projects throughout Northern California, Northern Nevada, Hawaii and Utah. “It was building history. You had a part of that history,” Marshall said.