The mention of the civil engineering profession leaves most people a little in the dark and groping for an understanding of what a civil engineer does.

Civil engineering isn't the most visible profession, unlike a famous defense attorney or a doctor who finds a cure for an heretofore-incurable disease, but people can hardly drive down the street or function in their house without a boost from the civil engineering profession.For an understanding of this almost invisible profession, I went to the firm of Eckhoff, Watson and Preator Engineering, 1121 E. 3900 South, a company involved in some interesting and controversial projects in recent years such as the West Desert pumping project.

It became apparent immediately this company and other similar companies have a great impact on people's lives because their projects range from annexation studies, environmental analysis and traffic studies to site grading, drainage, subdivision platting, irrigation design and water and wastewater treatment plant designs.

Now with more than 60 full-time employees (it also hires some civil engineering students from the University of Utah as interns) using 14,000 square feet of leased space at Park View, 25-year-old EWP is having a major impact on economic development in Utah along with an impact on government projects.

EWP was founded in 1965 by Rod Preator as an extension of a larger engineering firm in Helena, Mont., Morrison Meierli and Preator, when he came to Salt Lake City and established an office at 3300 South and 2300 East.

Kennetth W. Watson and David W. Eckhoff were managers of a project to develop a wastewater management plan for Salt Lake County and after completing that work decided to formed their own engineering consulting firm since Morrison Meierle wanted to sell their interest.

In 1977, Ken Watson, his brother, Ralph Watson, and Eckhoff, purchased the interest and formed EWP. Ralph Watson operates the company's office in Cedar City. EWP also has offices in Heber City and Las Vegas.

The engineering firm began to grow and in 1979 Greg Thorpe became a principal and in 1980, Robert L. Siegel became a principal. Preator retired in 1983 and since then James Olson, who directs the company's environmental group, Fred Duberow, who directs the water resources gorup, and Tom Johnson, controller and managing partner, have joined the company as associates.

In explaining some of EWP's work, Eckhoff pointed to three projects in which he has been extensively involved, including the sewer line in Big Cottonwood Canyon, the West Desert pumping project and Salt Lake City's 1998 Winter Olympics Sports Park.

Eckhoff said the sewer line in the canyon has just been completed between Solitude Ski Resort and the canyon mouth. Next year it will be extended from Solitude to the Brighton loop and a collection system from various cabin communities.

Eckhoff said the unusual West Desert pumping project made a difference in EWP because it allowed engineers to expand their talents. Thorpe served as project manager.The $55 million project accomplished its goal of increasing evaporation of the Great Salt Lake when it was threatening millions of dollars worth of public facilities.

For its effort, the project was named the outstanding civil engineering project by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1988.

EWP also is heavily involved in designing the luge and bobsled run and the ski jumps in Bear Hollow southeast of Kimballs Junction that are part of Salt Lake City's Olympic bid.

Kenneth Watson's involvement with the company is mainly in the residential and commercial area and he is credited with work on 50 percent of the residential development along the Wasatch Front. After a developer has decided how many lots he wants developed, Watson and his staff lay out the plats, do a boundary survey, prepare a site plan, design the curb and gutter, coordinate with utilities for installation of power, water and sewer lines and help with the landscaping.

Much the same work is done with commercial development except parking ratios need to be figured. Some of the projects credited to Watson are Oquirrh Shadows, Ensign Downs, Layton Hills Mall, Sugar House redevelopment (under construction) and the Toys R Us stores.

Duberow has been involved in a total renovation of the Summit Park water system and four years ago completed a project at Snowbird that dammed mine tunnels so the water could be utilized by the resort. A new project for Park City involves developing a water supply from Spirit Tunnel and a filtration plant.

Siegel has been involved in moving Sandy City from the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District to the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake City. He also has been working on designing three new roads around Jordanelle Dam in Wasatch County and a parking and transit system for Salt Lake City and County.

Olson heads the environmental group for EWP with emphasis on water pollution control, hazardous waste management, solid waste management and storm water management. Some of his recent projects are upgrading a sewer treatment plant for the Central David County Sewer District and removal of de-icing material from water at the Salt Lake International Airport.