A Brief History of the Board

The California Legislature created the Board of Registration for Civil Engineers in 1929, following the failure of the St. Francis Dam in northern Los Angeles County. On March 12, 1928, the dam, which was located northeast of Castaic, suddenly gave way. A huge wall of water cascaded down the narrow valley of the Santa Clara River and when the water hit the town of Santa Paula, almost 50 miles downstream, the crest was still 25 feet high. The dam failure unleashed 12 billion gallons of water through the towns of Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula, and Ventura before it reached the ocean. Lives lost numbered approximately 450; property damage was in the millions of dollars; 1,200 houses were demolished; and 10 bridges washed out. After the flood, inspection revealed that the dam was built on, and anchored to, a weak and faulted rock formation. The Legislature determined that the unregulated design of construction projects constituted a hazard to the public and passed laws to regulate civil engineering and to create the Board.

Although Civil Engineers first became licensed in 1929, Land Surveyors have been licensed in California since 1891. That was the year the Legislature established the State Surveyor General. However, in 1933, the Legislature abolished that office and enacted the Professional Land Surveyors' Act. The Act expanded the Board's authority to include jurisdiction over licensing of land surveyors and regulation of surveying practices. Until then, local governments had been interpreting the laws governing subdivision maps and recordation of parcel boundaries in widely differing ways for many years. Many land surveyors ignored basic legal requirements concerning subdivision maps and survey records. Some counties allowed boundary monuments to be moved or even destroyed. Legal disputes over property boundaries cost the state and the public millions of dollars. Regulation of land surveyors brought about uniform enforcement of survey law and is in the best interests of the state and California consumers.

Over the years, the Board has experienced some major changes under the provisions of the Professional Engineers Act. The number of branches of engineering regulated by the Board has increased, and the status of some of the older branches has changed. When electrical and mechanical engineering were first covered by the registration law in 1947, the law only affected the use of the titles. In 1967, the Act was amended to regulate the practice of those branches, as well as the titles. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Act was also amended to give the Board the right to accept additional branches of engineering into the registration program. The additional categories were for the purpose of regulating the use of the titles of those engineering branches. Between 1972 and 1975, the Board expanded the registration program to include nine additional branches of engineering under its jurisdiction. In 1986, at the Board's request, the authority to create new title registration branches was removed from the Act. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, four of the title registration branches were deregulated.

In 2009, legislation was enacted that eliminated the Board for Geologists and Geophysicists and transferred all of the duties, powers, purposes, responsibilities, and jurisdiction to regulate the practices of geology and geophysics to the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. Effective January 1, 2011, the name of the Board was changed to the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists.