Farallon After Hours: Tad Cline, A Life of Stewardship

March 15, 2018

Principal Civil Engineer/Hydrogeologist Tad Cline has a lifelong connection with the land and water. Tad began sailing El Toro dinghies on a mountain lake at a family cabin in the California Sierra at the age of 5. Later, Tad and his father won the Guam 420 sailing championship when Tad was 11. Tad bought his first sailboat when he was 14 and living on Lopez Island, and participatedLopez Island, WA in ocean racing in Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. At one point, he crewed a sailing trip from French Polynesia to San Francisco. “We spent 5 months on a 32-foot gaff-rigged ketch with a problematic engine,” Tad remembers, “sailing around Tahiti and eventually launching from Bora Bora for Hawaii. It took a very long time to get across the equator, and we eventually arrived off California in a gale.”

Tad enrolled at Colorado State University planning to study hydrogeology. “When I was offered a fellowship in civil engineering, I switched my degree program to Civil Engineering with an emphasis on hydrogeology and water resources,” Tad says. “I really enjoyed living in Colorado and spending time in the Rockies.”

While Tad pursued a career dedicated to environmental assessment and restoration, he found himself drawn back to the forested island of his youth. Now, instead of the work haying, salmon gillnetting, and raising livestock he did as a kid, Tad leads Farallon’s Seattle office in complex construction support and remediation projects. And in his free time, he’s planning and constructing by hand his own off-grid, sustainable homestead on Lopez Island.

Yurt on Lopez“I can see the fields I hayed during high school across my north fence line. I have a wonderful view of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island and other open-field surrounding,” Tad says. “The property has everything that makes the island special: 6 acres are heavily wooded, and 4 more are hay field. There’s even a Category IV designated wetlands. My current challenges are chainsaw milling, moving heavy timbers, and learning about mortise and tenon joinery for timber framing for a few small structures.” Tad’s plan is to harvest all the wood he needs from trees on the property and mill them into timbers. Tad puts his sustainable ethic into practice by using the wood waste from the milling process to fuel his wood stoves, and he’s designing a solar electrical system for basic power needs that includes pumping groundwater to an elevated tank for a gravity-fed water system.

“It means a lot for me to be able to share my love of the environment and the importance of living sustainably with my children, who are now young adults. We regularly explore, bike, ski, and sail, and on recent weekends we’ve even done a bit of homesteading,” Tad says. “Planning a life off the grid is hard work, but also a lot of fun, and this place feels like home.”