Adobe Associates, Inc. - Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

This is our favorite question, because we have a lot to offer! Upfront, we bring over 30 years of experience working in many cities and counties throughout Northern California.

  • We are Client-Oriented. As a dedicated provider in a professional service industry, we recognize that the success of our business revolves around accessibility to our clients and understanding and responding to their needs.
  • We have integrity and serve our clients with honest assessments, reliability in our interactions and responsible representation.
  • We treat our clients, staff, agencies and community with respect in all aspects of our endeavor.
  • We have a quality work product and will provide competent professional guidance, clear communication, efficient product delivery and follow-through to completion.

In addition to our experience, we also bring a strong commitment to customer service. We deliver professional Civil Engineering and Land Surveying services "you can count on." At Adobe Associates we always answer the phone and we believe that dedication to the service of our clients with integrity, honesty and clarity provides a common basis for teamwork and success.

We also understand that not everyone is an engineer! We keep things simple and always explain the process of our work as it takes place. And if you'd rather not know about the process, that's fine by us. We specialize in getting the job done!

We work with government agencies and those who work with them. This includes cities, counties and state agencies like the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), Land Developers, Architects, other Engineers and individual property owners.

Adobe Associates personnel have extensive experience in working with public agencies. Much of our present work is with private developers and land owners in preparing designs that meet county, city and state requirements for permitting.

Adobe Associates has three departments that work together to maximize the potential of your land development projects: Civil Engineering, Land Surveying and Wastewater Management. However, depending on the location, size, and complexity of the project, other professional consultants may provide valuable input to provide a successful outcome to your project. The consultants most commonly used on development projects include:

  • Architectural Consultant – Determines building uses, functional space requirements, building materials, textures, colors, code requirements, energy needs, lighting needs, building locations, fire safety, plumbing and aesthetics.
  • Geotechnical Consultant (Soils engineer and/or geologist) – Determines soil types and characteristics including strength, stability, corrosivity, erodibility, compaction and special design considerations. Prepares geotechnical reports required for grading and structural projects.
  • Structural Consultant: Provides engineering for safe and sound designs of project structural elements including buildings, bridges, retaining walls, tanks, tank pads, parking structures and miscellaneous structures. In California, seismic (earthquake) loading is a required structural consideration for all structures.
  • Environmental Consultant: Provides assistance with environmental permitting issues including CEQA, NEPA, negative declarations, special environmental permits, challenges or considerations.
  • Biological Consultant: Determines project impacts on State and Federal protected plants and animals species and provides guidance for mitigation of impacts. Also provides assistance with environmental permitting issues.
  • Acoustical Consultant – Determines noise levels on projects or generated by projects and makes recommendations on mitigating noise impacts.
  • Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (MEP) Consultant – Provides designs for mechanical, electrical and plumbing for projects and structures.
  • Landscape Consultant – Provides project landscape and irrigation designs. Designs specify plant types, plant functions, locations, irrigation needs and aesthetics.
Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works such as bridges, roads, sewers and sanitary wastewater systems, buildings and other structures. Civil engineering takes place on all levels: in the public sector from municipal to national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners to international companies.

The Civil Engineer is essential for understanding the land, soil and regulatory aspects of any construction project; early involvement is essential and the Civil Engineer is frequently hired directly by the owner, in advance of the design team. The Civil Engineer prepares his or her own contract documents and assesses work compliance with the contract documents.

We offer general civil engineering design services. Specifically, we design grading and drainage plans, both sanitary and stormwater sewers, streets, highways and wastewater systems such as private septic systems and winery wastewater systems. Additionally, our personnel have experience in preparing complex drainage or hydraulic studies, construction cost estimates, bid documents and feasability studies.

The size and complexity of projects vary, and the amount of engineering required varies. Some simple, small projects can require a lot of engineering work while some large and complex projects can require very little engineering. These factors notwithstanding, fees are typically commensurate with the size and type of project. Engineering can be billed per hour or charged at a flat rate.

Because of the many different factors influencing costs and the many different types of projects, it is best to call or email your engineer about fees. It is usually possible to get an exact quote for your project if your plans are substantially completed or if the scope of your project is well-defined. If not, you can usually get a a fairly close range of engineering costs to expect if you have a good idea of what you want to build and can describe this to your engineer.

In developing a site for a new use, it is critical from a practical as well as legal standpoint to properly collect, convey and discharge stormwater on your site. A Stormwater Mitigation Plan will quantify anticipated flows from certain "design" storms, propose the method of conveyance (e.g. culvert pipes or open ditches) and show how to minimize the negative stormwater runoff impact on downstream properties and watersheds. Adobe Associates' staff is proficient in the different methodologies for estimating runoff from different types of sites subject to storms of typical duration. We combine sound engineering methods and practical experience to deign Stormwater Management Systems that are effective, cost conscious and environmentally sensistive.

A Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) is an individual who is authorized to develop and revise Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs). To ensure that the preparation and implementation of the SWPPP is sufficient for effective pollution prevention, Section VII of the Construction General Permit specifies that the Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) and Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP) be responsible for creating, revising, overseeing and implementing the project SWPPP.

Effective July 1, 2012, a QSD shall have one of the following credentials:

     a) A California registered professional engineer;

     b) A California registered professional geologist or engineering geologist;

     c) A California registered landscape architect;

     d) A professional hydrologist registered through the American Institute of Hydrology;

     e) A Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) registered through EnviroCert International, Inc.; or

     g) A professional in erosion and sediment control registered through the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET).

Effective September 2, 2011, a QSD shall have attended a SWRCB -sponsored or -approved QSD training course.

A Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP) is an individual assigned responsibility for the implementation of all elements of the Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), including non-stormwater and stormwater visual observations, sampling and analysis and preparation of Rain Event Action Plans. To ensure that the preparation and implementation of the SWPPP is sufficient for effective pollution prevention, Section VII of the Construction General Permit (CGP) specified that the Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) and Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP) be responsible for creating, revising, overseeing and implementing the project SWPPP.

Effective September 2, 2011, a QSP shall have attended a State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)-sponsored or -approved QSP training course and shall be either a QSD or have one of the following credentials:

     a) A Certified Erosion, Sediment and Storm Water Inspector (CESSWI) registered through EnviroCert International, Inc.; or

     b) A Certified Inspector of Sediment and Erosion Control (CISEC).

Grading permits are required when moving more than 50 cubic yards of soil, you are cutting more than 2 feet in depth, or you are creating a cut slope greater than 5 feet  in height that is steeper than 2:1.  Each of these requirements are exempt if the excavations are under a proposed structure properly permitted through the County of Sonoma.  Other requirements that will trigger a grading permit are whether you are filling more than 3 feet over existing grade or 1 foot over existing grade where the fill is intended to support a structure.  Fills from 1-3 feet that are placed on a slope greater than 15% can also trigger a grading permit.  Finally, any fill within a Flood Prone Urban Area or within a Special Floor Hazard Area will require a permit. 

The time for a grading permit varies depending upon the amount of permits that Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department receives over a period of time.  Over the years, we have seen that the initial review time (1st plan check) can be between 4-6 weeks and then the subsequent reviews take approximately 2 weeks following a resubmittal.

LID stands for Low Impact Development.  It is both a design method and program that has been adopted by most areas within Sonoma County.  The aim is to design new projects so that the surrounding lands will not be negatively impacted by proposed improvements.  The LID program requires that the volume of runoff produced from the 85th percentile storm event will not be increased as a result of any proposed project.  There are certain measures that can be implemented on-site to help retain the increase in stormwater, the most common being infiltration basins.  These basins detain the runoff on site and allow it to infiltrate into the ground as opposed to running off of the site.  Projects that are subject to the LID program are any that are located within the Santa Rosa city limits.  There are other jurisdictions that have also adopted similar LID programs.  Please give us a call to discuss or check with the local permitting agency during the design process for details on their specific requirements.

Land Surveying

Most projects do need a survey of some kind. However, many people do not know what type of survey they need. At Adobe Associates we believe in giving you a full, honest, up-front scope of your project. We do this by listening closely to your project needs and then recommending the best approach to reach your ultimate project goals.

Topographic Surveys are used to identify and map the contours of the ground and existing features on the surface of the earth or slightly above or below the earth's surface (i.e. trees, buildings, streets, walkways, manholes, utility poles, retaining walls, etc.).  If the purpose of the survey is to serve as a base map for the design of a residence or building of some type, or design a road or driveway, it may be necessary to show perimeter boundary lines and the lines of easements on or crossing the property being surveyed, in order for a designer to accurately show zoning and other agency required setbacks.

Topographic Surveys require "bench marks" to which ground contours are related, information regarding surface and underground utilities, determination of required setbacks, etc.

Boundary Surveys identify and map the perimeter boundaries parcels of real property which will perhaps require the setting of permanent or semi-permanent "monuments" to mark the corners of the property being surveyed. The difference between boundary and title lines may need to be a part of the work in that identification.

Boundary Surveys require researching existing recorded (and sometimes unrecorded) survey maps and title documents (deeds, title reports, agreements, etc.), identification of encroachments either way across boundary lines, evidence of occupation of properties adjacent to the parcel being surveyed, evidence of easements or usages that may or may not have been recorded, etc.

A Lot Line Adjustment (LLA) is an adjustment of a line or lines between legal parcels.  The first step is to make sure we have two legal parcels that can be adjusted and have the potential for development.  Sonoma County, as well as most counties and cities, has requirements and an ordinance that governs the process of a LLA.  The process generally requires an application package prepared by a professional and submitted to the County or City for review with the appropriate filing fees.  This package generally requires the current Deeds for each parcel, a Title Report for each parcel, Assessor's Parcel Map, Project Proposal Statement describing the adjustment and why, a USGS Quad Map, and a Site Map.  The Site Map needs to reflect both parcels and the improvements on each one of them with the existing boundary lines, easements, and the proposed boundary line(s).  Existing improvements include wells, buildings, driveways, utility poles, septic fields, and other significant improvements.  The Site Map will require a field survey to identify these items and sometimes, but rarely, imagery can be used to supplement in areas that are not in close proximity to boundary lines or the area of adjustment. 

Once the Lot Line Adjustment package is submitted the jurisdiction will review it and either deem it complete and conditionally approved, or incomplete and provide you with what needs to be added, or deny it with reason.  If it is conditionally approved, they will provide a list of items that need to be completed before recording the new deeds.  Such as, pay all property taxes, prepare legal descriptions and plats of the areas of adjustment, and make sure all lien holders sign off on partial reconveyances.  These are some of the items that will be required, but certainly not an all-inclusive list.

Lot Line Adjustments are not required to be monumented.  However, a Professional Land Surveyor can set monuments at the new corners but would then be obligated to file a Record of Survey with the County identifying the monuments that were set.  A map must be prepared, reviewed, and subsequently recorded with the County in which the LLA was done. 

This is a brief overview and does not detail all situations or regulations in all jurisdictions but a fair sampling of what we have experienced doing Lot Line Adjustments in many jurisdictions in Northern California.

Construction Surveys calculate and mark on the ground where, both horizontally and vertically, specific design elements are to be placed and constructed.

As defined in the Subdivision Map Act, a subdivision is the division of land for the purpose of sale, lease or finance. In general, a minor subdivision creates four or fewer new parcels and concludes with the recordation of a parcel map, while a major subdivision creates five or more parcels and concludes with the recordation of a final map. While these distinctions alone are simple, the efforts necessary to accomplish each are very different.

Both parcel maps and final maps follow a similar process of approval and recordation. A preliminary form of the map will receive conditional approval, from which it can be advanced to its achieving its recordable form in exchange for satisfying specific requirements. For both maps, the process of achieving the conditional approval requires public hearing, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and referral to any public agency potentially affected by the subdivision. The specific requirements handed down to the project are known as Conditions of Approval (COA's) , which are typically satisfied with the preparation of construction documents , a parcel map or final map, the posting of bonds and the remittance of fees , and the execution of a subdivision improvement agreement. In Sonoma County, this process typically takes two years for a parcel map, while it is not uncommon for a final map to take a longer period of time, depending on the nature of the project.

In summary, a minor subdivision creates four or fewer parcels and can be achieve recordation in about two years, and a major subdivision creates five or more parcels and can take a number of years to reach recordation.



The simple answer is an Aerial Survey is one that is conducted partially from the air to collect information.  This is much of the time done by aerial photography from an airplane or helicopter.

When there is a need for topographic mapping of a large area, a cost effective way to obtain information and collect data is an Aerial Survey.  A series of aerial photographs, or digital images, are taken and then put together to form a three dimensional model of the land.  From this three dimensional model topographic information such as contours, buildings, lakes and ponds can be extracted.  In addition a color picture that can be overlaid onto that topographic map can be made.  This process is called a digital orthophoto and is different from a standard photo in that it is at true scale anywhere on the photo.

An Aerial Survey is a great tool for developing large or hard to access sites.  The advantage to an Aerial Survey is that it is not necessary to physically walk the entire project site to gather information.  However, the Aerial Survey does require "targets" to be set and a ground control network tied together that can be seen from the air.  If there is dense tree cover you can't see the ground to determine contour information; likewise if there is dense brush or even tall grass, the contours may reflect the top of the brush or grass, not the ground.  Many times an Aerial Survey of the overall site may be combined with traditional topographic surveys of specific areas to achieve a design grade product to be used by architects and engineers.


We offer general civil engineering design services. Specifically, we design grading and drainage plans, both sanitary and stormwater sewers, streets, highways and wastewater systems such as private septic systems and winery wastewater systems. Additionally, our personnel have experience in preparing complex drainage or hydraulic studies, construction cost estimates, bid documents and feasibility studies.


Many activities do require a permit but many people do not know what kind of permit, how long it will take to get the permit, what the cost of the permit is and where they obtain it.  At Adobe Associates we believe that guiding you through the permit process is essential for reaching your project goals.  Our extensive experience and constant updating of processes and regulations allows us to give good sound advice in processing a permit. 

As stated directly from the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department's website:  "The purpose of this form is to identify the information and materials required for a Use Permit application.  The Sonoma County Zoning Code sets forth both uses that are "Permitted" and "Uses Permitted with a Use Permit."  A Use Permit application is required for development projects that are typically more intensive than Permitted Uses.  Use Permit applications often require a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments; when processed with a Zone Change and/or a General Plan Amendment, the public hearing will be before the Planning Commission.  Examples of uses requiring a Use Permit are: wineries, kennels, contractor storage yards, planned developments and mixed use projects.  Use Permits are discretionary in nature, and, if approved, will include conditions of approval.  A Use Permit can only be approved if found to be consistent with the Sonoma County General Plan, Sonoma County Zoning Code and, applicable Area or Specific Plan and if found to be compatible with the health, safety, and welfare of the neighborhood."  See Sonoma County PRMD website for further information: .

This acronym stands for National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and pertains to the discharge of stormwater. Depending on the nature of your proposed improvement project, you may need to obtain this permit from the State Water Resources Control Board. Adobe Associates has several Certified Quality Stormwater Developers and Practitioners on staff and can assist you with this stage of your project. If you would like further information on NPDES, you may visit the State Water Resources Control Board by accessing their website, here.

 The General Construction Permit and the local grading permits have common goals in that the permit requirements address the preservation of water quality in surface runoff from construction sites.  The regulatory requirements of the local agencies must be strict or stricter than the State water quality regulatory requirements.

The State General Construction Permit regulates construction projects causing soils disturbances of one or more acres.  Local grading permits typically follow the California Building Code and required grading permits for construction sites moving more than 50 cubic yards of material or causing more than one acre of disturbance.  Please check the local permitting agency in your project area for the specific requirements.

Local grading permits require a grading plan that shows the limits, grades, and quantity of soils to be moved and an erosion and sediment control plan to show the plan measures to control erosion and sediment transport from the project site.  Sediment can be transported by surface water or wind.

The General Construction Permit requires a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) which identifies all of the potential pollutants from the construction activities, the best management practices (BMPs) to be used to reduce and eliminate pollutant migration from the site, site monitoring and inspections, water quality sampling, annual reporting, and record keeping.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) is responsible for the inspection and enforcement of the General Construction Permit requirements.  Local agency inspectors and code enforcement staff are responsible for the inspection and enforcement of the local grading permit and stormwater ordinances.

Public agencies hold municipal stormwater permits with the State and the RWQCB are responsible to ensure that the public agencies are effectively regulating, inspecting, and enforcing to maintain storm water quality.  It is common for the local agency inspector to be the person most commonly inspecting the project sites.  When compliance becomes problematic local inspectors may engage higher levels of enforcement including RWQCB inspectors.  While local agencies conduct enforcement, the enforcement actions issued by the RWQCB may be much heavier than those issued by the local agency.

Projects which disturb one or more acres of soil, or projects which disturb less than one acre but are part of a larger common plan of development that in total disturbs one or more acres of land, are required to obtain coverage under the General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity (Construction General Permit, 99-08-DWQ). Construction activity subject to this permit includes clearing, grading and disturbances to the ground (e.g. stockpiling or excavation). The permit does not include regular maintenance activities performed to restore the original line, grade or capacity of the facility.

The Construction General Permit requires the development and implementation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The SWPPPP should contain a site map (or maps) which shows the construction site perimeter, existing proposed buildings, lots, roadways, stormwater collection and discharge points, general topography (both before and after construction) and drainage patterns across the project. The SWPPP must list Best Management Practices (BMPs) that will be used to protect stormwater runoff and the placement of those BMP measures. In addition, the SWPPP must contain a visual monitoring program, a chemical monitoring program for "non-visible" pollutants to be implemented if there is a failure of BMPs, and a sediment monitoring plan if the site discharges directly to a water body listed on the 303(d) list for sediment.

Site owners must notify the state, prepare and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and monitor the effectiveness of the plan. The plan, which must also address control of pollutants in stormwater post-construction, does not have to be submitted to the Regional Board but must be on site and available to inspectors.

For additional "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding SWPPPs, QSP/QSD or the State General Construction Permit, please visit the State Water Resources Control Board website.

The purpose of an industrial stormwater permit is to confirm that industrial facilities properly monitor and control stormwater discharges and their impacts to the environment. Through preparation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) report, potential sources of pollutants in storm-water discharges are identified.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) include schedules of activities, prohibitions of practices, maintenance procedures and other management practices to prevent, eliminate or reduce the pollution of runoff to the receiving waters. BMPs also include treatment requirements, operating procedures and practices to control site runoff, spillage or leaks, sludge or waste disposal and drainage from raw material storage.

A Notice of Intent (NOI) is part of the required Permit Registration Documents, which provides information on the owner, location and type of project and which certifies that the owner will comply with the conditions of the Construction General Permit.

A Notice of Termination (NOT) is formal notice submitted by the owner/developer to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) that a construction project is complete and the project has met the conditions to terminate the permit.

New water quality regulations are rapidly coming to the North Coast region of California which impact vineyard properties and vineyard operations.   The purpose of the regulations is to reduce the sediment loads and chemicals, from agricultural activities, into local creeks and rivers. New regulations which affect the surface water discharges from vineyard properties in the Sonoma Creek and Napa River watersheds may be in effect as soon as March of 2013.

The proposed regulation is a Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements, which establishes “conditions” that eligible dischargers must meet as an alternative to individual waste discharge requirements (WDRs).  Compliance with the conditional waiver allows property owners to discharge surface waters, provided that all the conditions of the waiver are met.

Most existing vineyards, new vineyards, and vineyard replants within the Sonoma Creek and Napa River watersheds will be eligible to comply with the waiver in lieu of obtaining individual waste discharge permits.  The Conditional Waiver eligibility criteria are based on vineyard size and slope of terrain.  

The conditional waiver
State law and policy require the Water Board to regulate and reduce sources of water pollution, including non-point source pollution that commonly enters steams, creeks, and rivers from agricultural land. Waste discharge requirements, permits that the Water Board issues to individual pollution sources, may be "waived" for parties who comply with basic provisions. A conditional waiver establishes “conditions" that eligible dischargers must meet as an alternative to individual waste discharge requirements. Compliance with the conditional waiver (waiver) allows property owners or operators to discharge, provided that all the conditions of the waiver are met. On November 16, 2012 the Water Board released a draft waiver designed to meet the TMDLs and nonpoint source policy. The draft conditional waiver and associated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) document are posted on the Water Board’s website at

The Notice of Intent and Farm Plan requirements can be found in the draft Conditional Waiver located at the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board website (

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the Vineyard Conditional Waiver are addressed in the Water Boards Vineyard Waiver Fact Sheet.

Landowners/Operators must prepare Farm Water Quality Plans and implement, and where appropriate, update or improve, management practices to effectively control discharges to meet water quality objectives and achieve compliance with this Order (TENTATIVE ORDER NO. 2012-XXXX CONDITIONAL WAIVER OF WASTE DISCHARGE REQUIREMENTS FOR DISCHARGES FROM VINEYARD PROPERTIES IN THE NAPA RIVER AND SONOMA CREEK WATERSHEDS). The specific management practices cannot be dictated by the Water Board because Water Code section 13360 prohibits the Water Board from specifying the manner of compliance with a Water Board order.

Farm Water Quality Plans are working tools that farmers use to select, plan, and schedule implementation of management practices. The farm plan is a dynamic document that changes in response to changing onsite conditions and needs and is most appropriately kept and managed by the Landowner/Operator onsite. The Water Board finds it is not beneficial to water quality to lock Landowners/Operators to management practices that may prove to be ineffective by having fixed farms plans that must be submitted to the Water Board’s office on an annual basis. Furthermore, some farm plans may contain broader issues of sustainability that are outside of the Water Board’s purview, including energy use, labor practices, marketing, and other personal and proprietary information.

The above information was taken from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board San Francisco Bay Draft CONDITIONAL WAIVER OF WASTE DISCHARGE REQUIREMENTS FOR DISCHARGES FROM VINEYARD PROPERTIES IN THE NAPA RIVER AND SONOMA CREEK WATERSHEDS page 7 line item 31 and line item 32.

The Notice of Intent and Farm Plan requirements can be found in the draft Conditional Waiver located at the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board website (

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the Vineyard Conditional Waiver are addressed in the Water Boards Vineyard Waiver Fact Sheet.

A farm plan is a comprehensive inventory and assessment of agricultural lands and roads, which details vineyard management practices at the property. In addition to documenting existing management practices, the farm plan should include a strategy, tailored to the individual site, for implementing additional management practices and projects as necessary to meet waiver water quality requirements (see Table 2 of the waiver). It must address all pollutant sources related to vineyard facilities and roads, including surface erosion and excessive runoff form vineyards; pesticide and fertilizer applications; and erosion and sediment delivery to waters from unstable areas such as gullies, rills, ditches, creeks, and landslides. Farm plan requirements are listed in Attachment D of the waiver.

For more frequently asked questions regarding Proposed Conditional Waiver from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board:

From Weblog

October 16, 2017

Dear Family, Friends, Clients and Prospective Clients,

We are sorry to have to cope with the devastation that these fires have brought to our lovely Sonoma County and neighboring Counties, Napa, Lake and Mendocino. We will remain strong, proud and confident in our Law Enforcement, Fire Fighters, First Responders, and everyone involved in getting us back on our feet. This process may take some time because first concerns will be focused on the safe well being of our staff, their families and providing a safe work environment.

We ask that all of our clients be flexible and patient. Adobe Associates' office is open for business and we will assist in any way possible to keep... Full post »


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