Why AB 1210 Makes Sense

AB 1210 was introduced to correct inconsistencies created by SWRCB Order 2009 – 0009 – DWQ, also known as the Construction General Permit (CGP). The CGP is inconsistent with existing law as it relates to the scope and practice of civil engineering.

The CGP “requires that all engineering work must be performed by a California licensed engineer” per Item F-45 of the CGP (2009-0009-DWQ as amended by 2010-0014-DWQ). This is because Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) generally include civil engineering design calculations for grading and paving, storm drainage runoff, detention/retention basins, water quality basin and features, soils analysis, soil stability, and other engineering-related calculations, all of which fall under the practice of civil engineering. This is not to mention that most civil engineering improvements plans of the past have included an erosion control and winterization plan long before a SWPPP was even required.

However, the CGP simultaneously creates the classification of Qualified SWPPP Developer (QSD) and Qualified SWPPP Practitioner (QSP). A QSD/P can prepare all aspects of a SWPPP after attending a training course and passing a certification exam. It is by most accounts, a course that teaches one how to pass the exam. And despite acknowledging in the CGP that civil engineering expertise is necessary to prepare a SWPPP, the Water Board expressly authorizes non-licensed persons to practice within the scope of engineering if a SWPPP includes such elements.

AB 1210, which also has the support of both ASCE Region 9 and BPELSG, seeks to address this misalignment between statement of intent and application by restating that civil engineering activities must be done by, or under the responsible charge of, a civil engineer.  In the event that a SWPPP incorporates practices licensed in California as civil engineering work, then this bill would apply to those aspects of the SWPPP.

AB 1210 also proposes to exempt professional engineers from obtaining a QSD/P certificate.  Most licensed civil engineers have a BS, some with an MS in civil engineering, have taken semesters of hydraulics, hydrology, soils and other advanced classes in water quality and water resources engineering, years of work experience before qualifying and then passing the state licensing exam. I submit that a 2 or 3-day training course designed to help one who is not a licensed civil engineer pass the QSD/P certification exam is not the equivalent. As of June 13, 2011, 530 out of 699 (75.8%) QSD/P certificates have been issued to licensed engineers, further underscoring ACEC California’s contention that this certificate is an imposed requirement on the practice of engineering in California, something that can only be implemented by BPELSG, the Board overseeing the practice of engineering in California.

Finally, AB 1210 contains extensive amendments that clarify that many other professionals can continue to obtain a QSD/P certification, if they so desire, and can continue to prepare SWPPPs in a professional capacity.  The requirements for supervision under responsible charge of a civil engineer apply only if elements of civil engineering are incorporated into the SWPPP being prepared.

Contrary to allegations, ACEC CA is not circumventing existing law or BPELSG.  In fact, ACEC California and the Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists sent the SWRCB letters in 2009, during the rulemaking process highlighting each of these issues. Their recommendations to protect the scope of practice of civil engineering, and the resulting affects on public safety, were ignored.  As a result, this legislation is intended to correct the drafting contradictions, ensure that requirements to practice engineering remain the purview of the BPELSG, and uphold the standards of public safety and protection that we have come to value in California.

Eddie W. Kho, P.E., F.ASCE, LEED AP BD&C
President, ACEC California

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