Bernard A. Etcheverry


Bernard A. Etcheverry

Educator – International Consultant – Author – Counsellor – Expert Witness – Regional Appraiser

Water Control – Water Rights – Water Resources – Irrigation

Twenty-first National Honor Member Nominated by the University of California Chapter

Water control and, specifically, hydrology and the practical fields of irrigation, drainage, and reclamation – spell out the sum total of Bernard Alfred Etcheverry’s brilliant achievements and useful life. Born in San Diego County, California, June 30, 1881, he received his early schooling at the Laycee de Bayonne, in Southern France. He entered the University of California in 1898, and when he graduated with a BS degree four years later majoring in civil engineering, he was named the class medalist. Alpha Zeta, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, and Phi Beta Kappa had each enrolled him as a member.

For one year after graduation, he served as instructor of civil engineering at his alma mater. The following two years, ending June, 1905, he was associate professor of civil engineering and physics at the University of Nevada. He then returned to the University of California as assistant professor of irrigation and drainage, and he served at this university from that date to his retirement in 1951. Professor Etcheverry’s students all looked to him for advice and inspiration. His hobby and greatest satisfaction came from helping students find their first jobs upon graduation. In 1910, he became associate professor, and in 1917, full professor, serving as head of the Department of Irrigation and Drainage.

In all that time, his work as a consulting engineer was sought far and wide. From 1906 to 1913, he was consulting and supervising engineer for the Kamloops Fruitland Irrigation and Power Company in British Columbia. Concurrently, he was retained by the Cherry Creek Estate, near Kamloops, as an engineering consultant. This Minister of Agriculture of the Provincial Government then engaged him to make a general examination of irrigation systems in the province and report his recommendations for their improvement.

From 1913 to 1914, he was consulting engineer for the Yolo Water and Power Company in Yolo County, California. In 1915, Professor Etcheverry served as chairman of the Board of Review of the U.S. Reclamation Service, facing the task of adjusting the construction charges of four projects of the Pacific Division. Then and later, much of his work was in the field of assessment of benefits for reclamation costs and the appraisal of properties that were being acquired for federal and state projects. His recommendations were upheld when contested in court. He also participated in litigation involving water right controversies. Engagements of long duration were expert to the city attorney of San Francisco (1914-22); Commissioner of Assessment Sacramento-San Joaquin Drainage District (1916-28); member of the Board of Consulting Engineers of the State Department of Public Works for the study of the water resources of California (1922-31); member of the Board of Consulting Engineers for the Kern River Water Storage District of California (1925-27);member of the Consulting Board of Engineers, Orange County Flood Control District (1930-31); and consulting engineer for the Orange County Flood Control District (1934-36). At the time of his death, he had been consulting engineer, State of California Reclamation Board, since 1929; consulting drainage engineer for the East Contra Costa Irrigation District since 1937; member of the State of California Water Resources Board since 1945; and consulting engineer for Kern County Land Company since 1949. He was also consultant to numerous other private organizations in his field.

In 1932, Professor Etcheverry was given a decoration from the Sultan of Morocco making him an Officer of the Order of Ouissam Alouite in recognition of his work on problems of irrigation for that country.

He was the author of “Irrigation Practice and Engineering,” published in 1916. This was the first comprehensive work on irrigation engineering and for many years the only text in existence. It has been a standard reference all over the world.

A Chapter Honor Member of the University of California chapter, Professor Etcheverry was nominated by the chapter for elevation to the grade of National Honor Member, and was elevated by the Fraternity at Berkeley, California, in April, 1954. A few months later, on October 26, 1954, he died at New Haven, Connecticut.

Bernard Etcheverry’s interest in the advancement of the engineering profession is exemplified by his service to the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was president of the San Francisco Section in 1926 and a national director from 1934-37. He was known to his associates and students for his keen perception, subtle humor, big cigars, and a sincere and friendly manner.

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