The Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (BPELS) regulates the practices of engineering, land surveying, geology, and geophysics in the state of California in order to safeguard the life, health, property, and welfare of the public.
The Board of Registration for Civil Engineers was created by California Legislature in 1929, after the St. Francis Dam located in northern Los Angeles County, gave way. Twelve billion gallons of water created a path of destruction down the Santa Clara River valley – 50 miles downstream, the crest was still 25 feet high! Approximately 450 people died, 1,200 houses were demolished, and overall property damage was in the millions. This devastating dam failure was later discovered to be due to the weak and faulted rock formation on which the dam had been built on, and anchored to. As a result, the Legislature decided to create the Board to regulate civil engineering, to prevent future unregulated construction design projects such as this.
Land Surveyors on the other hand, have been licensed in California since 1891. During that time, local governments interpreted the laws governing subdivision pans and recordation of parcel boundaries, and many land surveyors did not follow the legal requirements. As a result, boundary monuments were moved or destroyed, and legal disputes over property boundaries cost the state millions. In 1933, the Professional Land Surveyors’ Act was enacted to give the Board the authority to license and regulate land surveyors to bring uniform enforcement of survey law.
From the 1940’s through the early 2000’s, the Professional Engineers Act went through many changes – mostly increasing the number of branches of engineering to be regulated, and giving the Board the power to create more branches (a power which was later removed from the Act at the request of the Board).
The Board for Geologists and Geophysicists was eliminated in 2009, and those duties and powers were transferred to the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. The name of the Board was changed to include Geologists in 2011.
Purpose of the Board
The main purpose and duties of BPELS include:
- Licensing qualified individuals (not companies) as professional engineer, land surveyors, geologist, and geophysicists, based on experience and successfully passing examinations.
- Establishing regulations and promoting professional conduct.
- Enforcing laws and regulations.
- Providing information to the public on using professional engineering and land surveying services.
The following professions must be licensed by BPELS:
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Structural Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Geotechnical/Soils/Soils Engineering
- Land Surveying
BPELS also regulates the use of the following protected titles: Agricultural Engineer, Certified Engineering Geologist, Certified Hydrogeologist, Chemical Engineer, Civil Engineer, Consulting Engineer, Control Systems Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Fire Protection Engineer, Geodetic Engineer, Geomatics Engineer, Geometronic Engineer, Geotechnical Engineer, Industrial Engineer, Land Survey Engineer, Land Surveyor, Licensed Engineer, Licensed Land Surveyor, Mechanical Engineer, Metallurgical Engineer, Nuclear Engineer, Petroleum Engineer, Professional Corrosion Engineer, Professional Engineer, Professional Engineer – Retired, Professional Geologist, Professional Geophysicist, Professional Land Surveyor, Professional Land Surveyor – Retired, Professional Manufacturing Engineer, Professional Quality Engineer, Professional Safety Engineer, Registered Engineer, Soil Engineer, Soils Engineer, Structural Engineer, Survey Engineer, and Traffic Engineer. This includes any combination or abbreviation of those words and titles.
Violations Subject to Discipline
BPELS investigates complaints relating to specific violations of the Professional Engineers Act, the Professional Land Surveyors’ Act, and the Geologist and Geophysicist Act. Violations may include:
- Breach of contract
- Failure to use a written contract
- Failure to record a survey map
- Negligence or incompetence
- Fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation in professional practice
- Aiding and abetting
- Violating the Codes of Professional Conduct
- Practicing without a license
If a violation is found, BPELS has the authority to discipline licensees for these violations. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Suspending licenses
- Revoking licenses
- Placing licensees on probation
- Issuing administrative citations
- Referring the matter to the district attorney for criminal prosecution
If you have any questions about BPELS or have needs regarding a license application or license defense, Simas & Associates, Ltd. is a good place to start finding answers and help.