Carl Nelson

1973 - 1974

Carl Nelson, PE served as the Orange County branch president from October 1973 to September 1974.  Carl Nelson is a product of local public schools and has personally experienced the evolution of Southern California's infrastructure from dirt roads and sandy riverbeds to large flood control and water supply dams, concrete channelization of rivers, super highways and high rise buildings. He is a retired Director of Public Works for the County of Orange.

Carl is a native of Los Angeles, California and attended several Los Angeles area schools before attending and graduating from Vista High School in San Diego County. He graduated from Palomar Junior College before enlisting in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. After military service Carl resumed his education at Santa Monica City College before matriculating at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He received his Bachelor of Engineering degree at UCLA, and attended the University of Southern California (USC) where he was awarded the Master of Science in Civil Engineering. His lifelong pursuit of education includes graduate studies in Public Administration at California State University, Fullerton and the Executive Management Certificate from the University of California, Irvine.
Carl's early civil engineering experience was with the California Division of Highways Bridge Department, where he designed a single span, composite steel girder bridge for State Highway 88 crossing the West Fork of the Carson River. Carl's next employment was with the Orange County Flood Control District, where he progressed to the position of Assistant Chief Engineer.

Early in his career Carl co-authored the comprehensive report, entitled "A Study of Flood Control and Water Conservation Deficiencies in Orange County, California". Later he supervised the review of subdivision drainage plans, the preparation of flood hazard advisory letters, the issuance of permits and approval of developers flood channel improvement plans. When the Flood Control District was merged with other County departments during the formation of the county's Environmental Management Agency, Carl was selected for the position of Director of Public Works and County Surveyor. He held this position for a period of 14 years. In this leadership role, Carl directed all of the County's public works planning design, construction and maintenance. With a capital improvement budget averaging $40
million annually, his project involvement included:

  • The 1966 and 1967 Engineers Reports for flood control bond elections
  • Reconstruction of the Santa Ana River levees after the 1969 floods
  • Acquisition and development of Caspers Wilderness Park
  • Upper Newport Bay/San Diego Creek Early Action Sediment Control Plan
  • Incident Commander for emergency flood operations in 1978, 1980, 1983
  • Portola Parkway Bridge crossing Arroyo Trabuco Wilderness Park
  • Presentations in Washington D.C. in the successful pursuit of funding for the Santa Ana River Mainstem Project by the Corps of Engineers.

As a consultant to the Orange County Water District, Carl is involved in developing the Groundwater Replenishment System for purifying wastewater and recharge of the Santa Ana River Basin aquifers.
Carl has been active in community affairs as President of the Orange County Branch of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Southern California Chapter of American Public Works Association (APWA), his church and other organizations. He was selected as the "1985 Government Civil Engineer of the Year" for ASCE's western region. In 1988 he was honored by the APW A as a national "Top Ten Leader of the Year".

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