Aspect Stormwater Team Presents at MuniCon 2017

Aspect is proudly sponsoring and presenting at this year’s Washington State Municipal Stormwater Conference (MuniCon), May 16 & 17 in Yakima, WA.

On Day 1, Senior Associate Engineer, Tom Atkins and Senior Project Hydrogeologist, Andrew Austreng will be leading a discussion on infiltration testing requirements from the Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington.

During Day 2, Senior Hydrologist, James Packman and Greg Vigoren, City of Lakewood, will be presenting an evaluation of Western Washington Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) data. Later in the day, Principal Engineer, John Knutson and Project Engineer, Erik Pruneda, along with Rob Buchert, City of Pullman, will be presenting on designing and constructing Low Impact Development (LID) retrofits in low permeability soils.

Aspect’s Tom Atkins and Senior Hydrologist, Bryan Berkompas will also be displaying poster presentations. Tom will be providing a poster on assessing the feasibility of stormwater infiltration at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. While Bryan’s poster demonstrates a hydrologic performance evaluation of ten bioretention facilities across the Puget Sound region through a project funded by Stormwater Action Monitoring.

The conference is presented by the Washington Stormwater Center, in partnership with Yakima County and the Department of Ecology. This unique conference focuses specifically on addressing high-priority issues and challenges faced by municipal NPDES permittees statewide. Learn more about the conference at:  

Meet Bryan Berkompas and Rebecca Powell

Bryan Berkompas and Rebecca Powell are two recent additions to Aspect's stormwater team in our Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.    

Bryan Berkompas, Senior Hydrologist

Bryan Berkompas

Bryan Berkompas

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I was born in New Mexico and I still love the 4-Corners area, but I was raised in the Yakima Valley surrounded by orchards and vineyards. I moved to the Seattle area for graduate school. I thought the rain might drive me crazy but I have found I enjoy it.
  2. What inspired you to pursue hyrdology? What made you curious about it?
    I grew up hiking and fishing the rivers and creeks around Mt. Rainier and White Pass, but I didn’t really consider hydrology until college. In the fall of my junior year I did a suspended sediment study in a small urban creek in Michigan as part of fluvial geomorphology course I was taking. One frosty morning I was standing in the creek about an inch from topping my waders holding my arms at a crazy angle to collect my sample but not get my coat wet and it occurred to me that I was truly enjoying myself and maybe hydrology would be a good fit for me.
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    I still love the sound of water splashing and falling over itself as it flows down a channel. Still brings me peace. I enjoy the challenge of working at a site with unique or challenging hydraulic conditions and designing and implementing a monitoring approach that succeeds in meeting the project needs.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    I enjoy exploring the outdoors under my own power: backpacking with my kids, cycling, etc. I lead a kids’ program at my church and love hanging out with elementary school age kids for a few hours each week. I also enjoy the process of pulling and drinking a good shot of espresso.
  5. Where in the world would you like to travel next?
    I would love to visit Italy, see the Giro de Italia, relax in the Cinque Terre, eat lots of food, burn it off riding my bike in the Dolomites, and drink espresso. 

Rebecca Powell, Staff Water Resources Specialist

Rebecca Powell

Rebecca Powell

  1. Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
    I am from Salt Lake City, Utah; my husband is from the Pacific Northwest. One day he said “I want to go home.” I have been in the Pacific Northwest since then (1997).
  2. What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it?
    My great grandfather was a Forest Ranger and always took us (my grandparents, parents, me, and my siblings) to the fire lookouts. My grandparents managed a farm and were always worrying about water resources and how to manage natural resources. My mother is a retired biologist and science teacher (she hates picking peaches, I loved that). 
  3. What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
    I am walking (slightly aside) in the footsteps of my mother, grandfather, and great grandfather.
  4. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
    I like to work in my garden, work on my truck, sewing, cooking.
  5. Anything else we should know?
    Just became a grandma!


Aspect at the 2017 WA Hydrogeology Symposium

Aspect's Tyson Carlson and Andrew Austreng will both be presenting at the 11th Washington Hydrogeology Symposium in Tacoma this week (May 9-11). Senior Project Hydrogeologist Andrew Austren will discuss his Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) work on the Columbia Plateau. Andrew will present on his work for the City of Othello and how the City aims to stabilize aquifer levels and support well yields under current and future water demand.

Associate Hydrogeologist Tyson Carlson will present at a Thursday workshop on Training for Water Rights Analysis – Certified Water Rights Examiners (CWREs).  This workshop offers a refresher for CWREs on Washington water law. Tyson’s presentation will focus on how to write a proof of examination.

Taking place in Tacoma, the Hydrogeology Symposium is one of the Northwest's foremost meeting place for hydrogeologists and groundwater professionals in the academic, regulatory, and business worlds.

Aspect Honored to Be Part of Several APWA Projects of the Year

Aspect was honored to be involved with several projects that won top honors at the 2017 APWA-WA Conference in Tacoma, Washington.

In the Structures category, Kitsap County Public Works’ Bucklin Hill Bridge and Estuary Enhancement won Project of the Year in Washington State as well as a National award from the APWA. The City of Wenatchee’s 2016 Pedestrian Safety Improvements project also won Project of the Year in the Environment category.

See Kitsap County's time-lapse construction footage below.

The Bucklin Hill Bridge/Estuary Project rehabilitated the Clear Creek estuary to allow for smoother fish passage and also widened the road to reduce traffic congestion. Working with the OTAK-led project team from 2010-2016, Aspect performed the geotechnical work to replace the 72-inch-diameter culverts with a four-lane bridge.

For the Wenatchee Pedestrian Safety Improvements project, Aspect worked with the City of Wenatchee and WSDOT to collect and review the logs of subsurface explorations previously completed near the project area for other studies.  Using this data allowed the City to save money by forgoing additional explorations and Aspect to develop geotechnical recommendations to support design and construction of a large cantilevered signal pole for pedestrian crossings.

Chris Augustine Presents on Key Concepts in Thermal ASR Systems at AWWA

Aspect’s Senior Hydrogeologist Chris Augustine will be presenting on his work on developing a thermal Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system at this year’s annual Pacific Northwest Section American Water Works Association (AWWA) conference in Kennewick, WA.

While at another firm, and collaborating with Boise White Paper, LLC (Boise) and the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), Chris worked on a Wallula, Washington project that would store cold Columbia River water in the winter and spring months and then recover the stored water during the summer months when the temperature of the Columbia River becomes warmer. 

His presentation will focus on the goal of the project to reduce operational costs for cooling of process water and reduce surface water diversion during the summer to meet the target yield of 4,000 gallons per minute.

Learn more here: American Water Works Association

Meet Heidi Wachter and Brian Hite

Heidi Wachter and Brian Hite are two recent additions to Aspect's stormwater team in our Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Heidi Wachter
Associate Water Resources Scientist

Heidi Wachter

Heidi Wachter

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?
I was born in Seattle and lived here through fifth grade, until my German parents’ desire for mountains and country-living took us to the foothills east of Enumclaw, Washington. There, with my five brothers and one sister (yes, seven kids!), we spent non-school hours playing sports, riding horses, exploring Newaukum Creek’s headwaters, skiing Crystal Mountain, and hiking the central Cascades. Post high school, I packed my bags for LA (USC) and after one year of study (with some beach time), I realized the PNW is where I belong. Thus, I packed my books and came back to complete my academic career as a UW Husky. 

2.    What inspired you to pursue water resources?
I started college as a Biomedical Engineering major with the desire to design prosthetic limbs for athletes. After taking time off from college to ski, live, and work in Ketchum, Idaho, it became very clear I needed an active job allowing for human collaboration and plenty of outside work hours. After moving back from the Sawtooth Mountains, I started working in the nonprofit sector on resource conservation. This led to a Conservation Biology course with Estella Leopold, and Ms. Leopold sealed the deal. She encouraged me to keep an engineering focus, but also increase my understanding of biological conservation within engineering solutions. Thus, I made the shift to Water Resources/Environmental Sciences within Civil Engineering. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?
Quite simply, I enjoy working with people and through working with people, solving problems. What really keeps me motivated is when those solutions lead to environmental stewardship and resource conservation. 

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
Usually playing or hanging out with my husband Brent, son Griffin (11), friends, or traveling across the PNW and beyond to visit family—I think Griffin now has 20+ cousins across the US, Netherlands, and Germany. We can often be found on local soccer fields and baseball parks when we are not doing the usual PNW stuff—skiing, sailing, hiking, or taking road trips in Ruby-J, our Westy camper van (inspired by Aunt Ruby and Grandma Jeanette).

5. What five people would be your dream dinner party guests? 
My maternal grandmother, Maria Neller and my mother, Franziska (Neller) Wachter. My grandmother died during WWII when my mother was nine years old. My dream is a dinner conversation with both as adults; to have them converse, laugh, and tell stories of their life in Bayern, Germany prior to WWII. I would also include:

  • Estella Leopold—Because the Leopold family’s teachings and dedication to conservation have had an impact on many, including me.
  • Rosi Mittermaier—The first strong female skier I remember watching in the Olympics (Innsbruck 1976; 2 golds, 1 silver). 
  • Nina Simone—Her voice, her passion, and her work as a civil rights activist inspire me. Plus, my husband Brent (who would cook the amazing meal), would like to meet her. 

Brian Hite
Staff Water Resources Engineer

Brian Hite

Brian Hite

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? 
I was born, raised and still live in the small town of Puyallup, Washington, an hour south of Seattle. I love this area. It is near my family and friends, and I plan to retire here one day. I have decided to stay here because of the small-town feel and its proximity to the big cities.

2.    What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it?
I decided to pursue a career in water resources later in my life. I was injured in my previous construction career and was free to pursue any job out there. I was drawn to water resources and the stormwater field because I could see the effects of massive non-point pollution and I didn’t see a good solution on the horizon. I joined the fight against water pollution to ensure my kids and future generations will be able to enjoy clean surface water.

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
I love this field of work because it gives me the opportunity to help our neighborhood in a meaningful way. This work is also a lot of fun, allowing me to both work outside and in a nice office with great people.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
When I’m not at work, I am a family man who enjoys spending time at home. I am dangerous at video games like Madden, but I also like many outdoor activities. I love to bike, swim, and go camping with my family. Next year, my 10-year-old and I plan on attempting a Seattle-to-Portland bike ride. 

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
For me, I would love to travel to New Orleans. I love the food and I am intrigued by the culture. The music from the area is one of a kind. The idea of spending my morning exploring the mouth of the Mississippi, jambalaya for lunch, and dinner spent on a ghost tour would be great.

You can get there from here: Ending post-closure activities at old landfills

After landfills stop accepting waste, they transition into a post-closure period of typically 30 years or more. Towards the end of the post-closure period, landfill managers try to terminate or modify monitoring requirements in compliance with criteria and regulations.  Data collected on settlement, leachate generation, groundwater quality and landfill gas production are evaluated to demonstrate if monitoring activities can be terminated or reduced.

In one example of successful post-closure transition, see Seattle’s South Park Landfill before (2007) and after (2016) closure. The landfill was capped and redeveloped as a parking and storage facility.

On April 26 at the 2017 NW Regional SWANA (Solid Waste Association of North America) Conference in Tulalip, Aspect’s Peter Bannister will discuss his experience at closed landfills in eastern and western Washington and lessons learned that have set these sites up for terminating or reducing post-closure activities with regulatory certainty.

Learn more and register here.

Competition and Opportunity: Panel on Affordable Housing and Contaminated Sites in Puget Sound

Just like everyone else in today's real estate market, Puget Sound housing authorities, non-profits, and entities are looking for property in a region that has become very expensive. That has resulted in stiff competition from all purchasers – private and non-profit --for developing even contaminated sites, which only adds to the already high cost of development. Into this mix, money for affordable housing is tighter and lending requirements more conservative. Conversely, outside the Puget Sound region, contamination commonly puts property values under water, leaving key land underutilized.
However, affordable housing success stories are happening and showing that buying and redeveloping a brownfield property can lead to homes; more productive use; a cleaner environment; jobs; and retail.  On April 20 in SeaTac, Aspect’s Dave Cook and Jessica Smith join Ken Lederman and Jacquie Quarré of Foster Pepper PLLC for a panel discussion hosted by the Association of Washington Housing Authorities (AWHA). The group will cover the potential of brownfields sites for Housing Authority entities from the regulatory, legal, and environmental perspectives and present several recent affordable housing development stories, including Rainer Court and the Mt. Baker Housing Association.  
Learn more about AWHA here.

It’s a Wrap on the Cap: Port of Bellingham completes major cleanup milestone to redevelop Bellingham’s Waterfront District

A video history of the past, present, and future of the transformative Bellingham waterfront redevelopment.

Along the east side of the Whatcom Waterway in Bellingham, a layer of gray gravel stretches over the landscape. This “cap” of crushed rock and surrounding paved surfaces is a culmination of years of efforts to clean up soil and groundwater on the grounds of a former pulp and paper mill. Completion of the capping clears one major hurdle for the Port and City of Bellingham to create a new, vibrant waterfront.

Video Credit: Port of Bellingham

A historically industrial site with strong post-cleanup potential

The waterfront has always been central to Bellingham’s industrial past. Where the cap sits now was originally tideflats that were filled to create new upland for industrial use: salmon canning operations in the early 1900s, giving way to a pulp mill in the 1920s. In 2005, Georgia-Pacific (GP) sold 137 acres of land, including the 64-acre mill property, to the Port of Bellingham, and GP’s last mill operations closed in 2007. Despite the contamination that resulted from the industrial activities, the Port and the City did not give up on this property and saw the cornerstone of a new Bellingham waterfront—it only needed remediation to set the stage for productive and safe reuse.

How to Clean It Up

Heavy industrial use left some contamination in soil and groundwater across the majority of the mill property, which, for purposes of the environmental cleanup, is termed the GP West site. In 2009, the Port and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) executed an Agreed Order to investigate and determine the appropriate “cleanup action” for the site. First, Aspect completed a Remedial Investigation to document the soil and groundwater across the entire site. While the investigation was underway, the Port and Ecology agreed to proactively undertake interim cleanup actions to permanently remove areas of high-risk soil contamination (Bunker C fuel oil and liquid mercury) while working to create the cleanup plan for the larger site.

In 2013, the Agreed Order was amended to divide the GP West site into a pair of Remedial Action Units (RAUs): the Chlor-Alkali RAU that encompasses mercury contamination from a former mercury-cell Chlorine Plant on the south end of the site; and the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU that encompasses the former pulp mill and tissue mill areas to the north. Ecology agreed to do this to expedite cleanup and facilitate redevelopment, recognizing that cleanup of the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU was less complicated and could be accomplished more quickly than could the Chlor-Alkali RAU. In 2014, a Cleanup Action Plan (CAP) specified the final cleanup action for the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU. The final cleanup for that RAU involves additional removal of contaminated soil, and, in a few areas, monitoring the natural restoration of groundwater.

What it takes to put a Cap on 31 Acres

A major challenge for the capping project was achieving a protective barrier across 31 acres of highly variable surface conditions remaining after demolition of the former mill, while also maintaining accessibility and stormwater drainage until redevelopment reconstructs the area. The surface that required capping was a mish-mash of material types and grades: pavements of variable type and condition, intact concrete slabs of all dimensions and heights, crushed concrete and brick, and a hill of soil that historically served as a street onramp. Further complicating the effort was a widespread surficial layer of dirt and rocks presumed to have contamination from historical activities, termed “veneer.”

Aspect was involved throughout the capping project, from conceptual design to the construction plans and specs and bid process, and then overseeing work to ensure it was done to the CAP specifications. The capping itself took about 90 days, as outlined in these photographs:

Before – Pre-existing site surfaces requiring capping

Random intact slab with "veneer" around it.

Crushed concrete from mill demolition.  Also note that the Port saved some buildings and structures, like the “acid ball” and the “pulp digester” towers shown here, to contribute to the aesthetics of the planned redevelopment.

The hill of soil that historically served as a street onramp.

During – Regrading and consolidating contaminated material 

The initial steps of the capping project included grading off the tops of the soil knolls to match surrounding grades, as well as removing the “veneer.” The latter was done with excavators, street sweepers, and even a good old-fashioned broom in some areas. All of the excavated and swept-up contaminated materials were consolidated as fill to raise grade in a low area just south of the knolls.

During – Smoothing it out

Next, the site needed to be evened out. The contaminated soil fill was graded and compacted to a flat surface. Because it was to be capped with clean imported soil, a bright orange geotextile was placed across the contaminated soil subgrade to provide visual notification for potential future excavation through the cap during redevelopment. Adjacent stockpiles of crushed concrete and brick from prior building demolition were likewise leveled and compacted – creating a firm, flat subgrade across the entire fill area.

During – Capping it off

Once the fill was consolidated and evened out, the entire 31 acres needed to be capped. The cleanup plan called for a minimum of either 3 inches of competent hard surface (asphalt or concrete pavements or foundations), or 2 feet of clean import soil/rock, overlying the contaminated soil. Ultimately, contaminated soil was capped with 2 feet of import material (6 inches of crushed rock over 18 inches of sand and gravel) on top of the orange geotextile, while the cap across the rest of the area was a combination of pre-existing competent hard surfaces and new asphalt pavements. The capping also cleaned out and secured more than 170 vaults and other subsurface structures to eliminate physical hazards to foot and vehicle traffic and to control stormwater drainage.

Done – The finished product

The finished cap will keep people from coming into direct contact with potentially contaminated soil. The project also improved stormwater drainage, and provided an overall upgrade to the site’s aesthetic. Aspect will also continue to monitor the groundwater on the site as the Port and City plan their next steps.

What’s Next: Reconnecting the Community to the Waterfront

Just as the waterfront has been central to Bellingham’s past, it is now the key to its future. With the cap in place, the potential of this prime waterfront area is just now being unlocked. The old Granary building at the corner of the cleanup site is undergoing renovations to house shops and restaurants. The City is planning for construction later this year of the first arterials and utilities, as well as a park that will allow the community to directly access the waterfront. And rather than forget the past use of the area, the City has embraced it with a public competition to reimagine the site’s “acid ball” as an art installation within the new park.

How Dirty is the Dirt: Ripple Effects of Proposed Solid Waste Handling Regulations

The difference between “clean” and “dirty” dirt may become a lot more complex if new solid waste handling regulations take effect in Washington state. The state’s Department of Ecology (Ecology) has proposed significant revisions to Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 173-350, which governs how solid waste is managed. The proposed changes, which will be formally proposed later this year, will affect a number of solid waste practices, but the key revisions with the most significant implications concern creation of a new section establishing and standardizing criteria for managing the movement, reuse and disposal of soil and sediment  that is considered “clean” under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) but may have trace levels of contaminants (draft WAC 173-350-995).

Excavated soil from Seattle City Light’s new Denny Substation in South Lake Union. Under proposed new solid waste regulations, managing, hauling, and receiving this soil will likely be much more complicated for engineers, redevelopment teams, and landfill operators.

With the Puget Sound region by some counts leading the nation in development projects – which all generate dirt during construction excavation that must be reused or hauled away – establishing soil management protocols will likely have significant ripple effects in the business and regulated community. Consider just one urban skyrise, as this article on construction dirt does. A typical downtown Seattle building project could potentially generate 250,000 cubic yards of soil (equal to 25,000 dump truck loads) that must be removed from the site. The new soil and sediment criteria would potentially mean higher sampling costs, more complex soil management plans, additional reuse constraints, and greater soil volumes filling up limited landfill space.

How managing “Dirty” Dirt would change

Contaminated sites are regulated under MTCA, which provides screening criteria for defining impacted soil. Soil with contaminants below MTCA screening levels is considered “clean”. Currently, the end use of “clean” excavated soil is largely determined by criteria set by individual receiving facilities—gravel mine, landfill, reuse site, etc. These facilities may all have different standards for what level of impacted soil they will accept. The new proposed regulation would change that, formulating the screening process for “clean” soil and creating formal soil reuse and disposal acceptance criteria. This means that “clean” soil (albeit with low levels of contaminants at concentrations protective of human health and the environment) would now need to go through rigorous sampling, laboratory analysis, evaluation, and jurisdictional health department permitting just to be hauled away. This would be a big change from the current process, where this same “clean” soil can be reused as fill because it is deemed “protective” of human health and the environment, per MTCA.

Implications of new regulations

At the heart of the update is the intent to formally regulate soils that are not perfectly clean. Ecology hopes the rule update will streamline management, decrease delays in soil movement, reduce the potential for creating new cleanup sites, and reduce environmental damage. Practitioners see the implications of these proposed rule updates as increasing the cost of development projects, slowing development schedules, creating a regulatory quagmire, and causing landfills to fill with soil that could be put to use elsewhere.  

Helping Bring Clean Water To Guatemala

In 1985 a US doctor and his wife traveled to the Northwest highland area of Guatemala, where they observed areas of extreme poverty and little infrastructure. Dr. Leeon Aller, MD and his wife Virginia soon decided to dedicate themselves to helping this region and in 1991 established Hands for Peacemaking Foundation (HFPF), based in Everett, Washington. Going strong in 2017, the Foundation provides infrastructure and other support services to over 250 villages in this mountainous area, where running water and electricity are the exception and having clean drinking water can be a daily struggle for villagers. 

For many years, Aspect has been supporting HFPF efforts to help some of the area villages solve water supply challenges and also provide geological assistance with the landslide-prone environment these mountain villages exist in.

 The Water Story of San Francisco JolomtaJ

Located 10 miles from the nearest town of Barillas, San Francisco Jolomtaj is home to 160 families and does not have electricity or running water.  For drinking water, the villagers have a choice -- they can build wooden boxes like that pictured below or walk to a spring to get and carry back water (this can mean a 4-5 hour round trip trek).

Existing wooden box water supply for the village

Villagers trekking back up the mountain with water from the spring

To help this situation, Aspect and others are funding construction of rooftop rainwater collection system for the community school and individual families—primarily widows and the elderly who struggle to get water for themselves. 

San Francisco villagers loading supplies to build the tank system

Family and finished water tank

HFPF partners with the villagers to build the water systems. These systems don’t replace the spring sources, but they do provide critical water emergency supply and are filtered to block contaminants. The work in San Francisco is currently ongoing, with additional collector and tank systems constructed as funding allows.  You can learn more about this project and other humanitarian projects by visiting the  Hands for Peacemaking Foundations website.

Kittitas County: Leading the Charge on Water Banking

On April 12, Aspect’s Dan Haller will co-present with Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell on the future of Kittitas County Water Resource Management. Kittitas County has been at the heart of the state’s recent water banking approach with the most mature and heralded water bank in Washington. Over the past 10 years, they went from the staunchest opponent to exempt well management to the unquestioned leader in the State, with broad state, local, and tribal endorsement of their transformation.

Over the years, Aspect has helped the County develop the program, including an innovative "over the counter" water rights program.

The presentation will be at the Starlight Lounge in Ellensburg and hosted by the Washington Chapter of the American Water Resources Association (AWRA).

For more details and to register click here.

Meet Ali Cochrane and Kristin Beck!

Our roundup of introductions to new Aspect staff continues with two recent additions to our Environmental practice area: Senior Staff Geologist Ali Cochrane and Staff Hydrogeologist Kristin Beck. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better… 

Ali Cochrane

1.    Where are you from? 
I’m a Seattle local! Born and raised on Queen Anne hill. 

2.    What inspired you to pursue geology? 
My third grade teacher, Mrs. Mary Lou Laprade, hosted a guest instructor—a principal geologist from a Seattle consulting firm—who spent several weeks teaching us about geology and earth science. I remember being especially fascinated by the idea of plate tectonics and mountain building. When I had the opportunity, I took entry level geology courses at WWU, which renewed my interest in Geology and I enrolled in the degree program. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
Of course, I really like investigating and learning more about how our projects are affected by the earth processes that originally drew me to geology, but I’ve also grown to love the complex problem solving that is a strong component of all of our projects.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
I get my strongest zen from gardening – I love to work the earth with my hands, learn about effective organic gardening and how best to utilize limited urban space, and try out different food preservation techniques for big harvests. I was recently selected as co-coordinator at the Greenwood P Patch—one of Seattle’s community gardens—where I have the opportunity to connect with experienced urban gardeners in my neighborhood, and help new gardeners learn about a hobby that I love. 

Another thing that I put a lot of time into is learning about Seattle’s local music scene—my husband is a musician and runs a recording studio out of our basement, so we frequently have local musicians in the house, and I can often be found at a small local music venue either listening to one of my husband’s bands or exploring what’s popular. 

Other things that occupy my off-work-life include yoga, hiking, spending time with my mom and siblings (who luckily all live nearby) and my 7-toed cat, Luna!

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? 
My husband and I love to travel! We try to set aside money to try a new country each year—this year we’ll be traveling to Tokyo!

Kristin Beck

1.    Where are you from?  
I’m from Sumner, Washington, about an hour outside of Seattle. I went to college in Los Angeles and then lived all over the world, including New York City; Boulder, Colorado; Istanbul, Turkey; and Taipei, Taiwan, before I moved back to Seattle for grad school. I always figured that the weather would keep pushing me away from the Pacific Northwest, but then my brother started having kids and the draw of being the cool, local auntie was too much to resist. Now I hang with the babies to cure my winter doldrums.

2.    What inspired you to pursue geology? What made you curious about it?
My undergraduate degree is in diplomacy and world affairs—a far cry from geology—so my path to this point has not been straight. I had been introduced to geology late in the game and decided not to change my major, but I snuck in classes whenever I could. The last semester of my senior year, I got the high score on a geology midterm and the professor wrote at the top of my test, “You should have been a geologist!” So I went home and had an enormous existential crisis; I knew he was right. What I loved about geology was that it wasn’t purely theoretical—you could look around and see how our lives were being affected either by being ignorant of or by harnessing the world around us. It was clear that you couldn’t talk about geology without also discussing the tangible effects it has on people and communities.

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? 
What I like about hydrogeology is its interdisciplinary nature. It is crucial to understanding other geologic phenomena, from landslides to contaminant transport to volcanic eruptions, but it also has constant intersection with the socio-political world. Groundwater plays an enormous role in our lives in ways we often don’t think about until the supply runs low (or runs dirty). In many global or intrastate conflicts, access to water plays a major role. The wide range of complicated problems you might be asked to solve as a hydrogeologist is why I decided that this is what I want to do.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? 
Most weekends you can find me tossing my niece and nephew around, practicing my self-defense skills at Krav Maga Seattle, searching for the perfect Reuben sandwich, or doing maintenance around my family’s property on Hood Canal. I’m also working on a “30 Before 30” list, so in the next 1.5 years I’ll be working to complete a set of random tasks, including making homemade lox, gambling $30, summiting Mt. Adams, and developing my own Bloody Mary recipe.

5.    What five people would be your dream dinner party guests? 
My first instinct would be to say Hillary Clinton, Melissa Harris Perry, Angela Merkel, JLo, and Tina Fey, but I’m pretty sure the room would explode with that many awesome women in one place. In the interest of safety, then, I would replace Tina Fey with Jon Stewart and he can serve as moderator.

Meet Will Guyton & Erik Pruneda

Senior Staff Water Resources Technician Will Guyton and Project Water Resources Engineer Erik Pruneda are the two other members of Aspect’s new stormwater engineering team in our Yakima office (meet John Knutson and Bill Rice here). Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better…

Will Guyton

1.       Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?  Although my family’s roots are here in the PNW, I moved around quite a bit as a kid. I spent most my childhood in northern Virginia, but I finished high school in Hood River, Oregon. After high school, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where I was stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. After my discharge in 1998, I moved to the Seattle area and got into the consultant engineering industry. In 2007, I moved to Naches, Washington (population 850) to enjoy small town life and raise a family.

2.       What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it? I would say that it wasn’t so much “what” inspired me to pursue water resources as “who.” I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing engineers and scientists who have inspired and mentored me throughout my career. They introduced me to this industry and challenged me to pursue the things that interested me most. Over the years, I have developed a passion for solving problems that affect people, property, and the environment; I feel like I am doing something that makes a difference.

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I think what motivates me most is the variety of our projects and the continuing opportunity I get to learn new things. Whether we are helping a municipality establish a stormwater utility, solving localized flooding issues, or improving a stream’s habitat, no problem is ever the same, and every client has different needs and challenges.

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working?  I enjoy spending time and doing things with my family. During the warmer months, I spend a lot of time hiking, camping, geocaching, and generally exploring our beautiful region with my wife, my two boys (10 and 8), and our tent trailer. I also enjoy golfing, coaching my kids’ sports teams, playing cards, and watching football.

5.       Where in the world would you like to travel next?  I'd love to take an extended RV road trip with my family through some of our country’s National Parks. We have been planning a tour that would take us through the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches.

Erik Pruneda

(the seventh Erik now on staff and the second to spell his name ending with a “k”)

(the seventh Erik now on staff and the second to spell his name ending with a “k”)

1.       Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here?  I’m from Yakima, “The Palm Springs of Washington.”

2.       What inspired you to pursue water resources (define this as you’d like)? What made you curious about it? During my time at Washington State University pursuing a BS degree in Civil Engineering, I found the water resources courses to be the most exciting and that led me to meeting my graduate professor who convinced me to stick around another year and get my MS in Civil Engineering. During my graduate degree program, I studied groundwater and surface water interaction and had the opportunity to learn how to conduct flow measurements, install groundwater elevation monitoring equipment, use ArcGIS, and many other stimulating things.

3.       That do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated?  I enjoy the variety, rarely are two projects the same, and there is always something new to learn and apply.

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working?  Study the fine art of popular culture.

5.       What five people would be your dream dinner party guests? The cast of Wedding Crashers: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, and Will Ferrell.

Aspect Helps Kittitas County Offer 'Over-the-Counter' Water Rights

Aspect has been assisting Kittitas County with implementation of their water bank. The newest feature is a general permit that allows the County to cover non-exempt uses in a streamlined manner through issuance of mitigation certificates, similar to their over-the-counter approach for exempt well mitigation.  This allows property owners to continue to interface in a streamlined and coordinated manner with Kittitas County instead of seeking one-on-one solutions with Ecology, that would be more time-consuming and expensive.  This is another example of how Aspect continues to assist counties with innovative solutions to Hirst-related issues

Check out this article by The Daily Record News for more detail!

'Drunk Trees' and a Deluge of Rain Increase Landslide Risk

The Puget Sound area has been deluged with rain over the last few days, all within an already almost-record-breaking month of precipitation. With increased rain comes increased risk for landslides, and Aspect staff have responded to multiple ones over the last few days. This MyNorthwest article gives an explanation of landslide risks in our region with tips how to spot warning signs.

Aspect Paves the Way for a First-of-its-Kind Affordable Housing Project

Five pieces of land in southeast Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood have sat unused for years. Contamination from a former gas station and dry cleaner has plagued the area’s potential, especially since they sit just two blocks away from the Mount Baker light rail station. However, that’s all changing thanks to an innovative collaboration between the Mt. Baker Housing Association, the City of Seattle, and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Click image for King 5's video on the Mt. Baker Gateway Project

Click image for King 5's video on the Mt. Baker Gateway Project

With the creation of a Redevelopment Opportunity Zone (ROZ), 150 units of affordable housing will soon go up in one of the City’s most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. This ROZ designation—the first-of-its-kind in the state—allows for state money to be used for the environmental cleanup. With this innovative model, these previously undevelopable parcels are on their way to becoming crucially needed affordable housing.

Aspect's Jessica Smith and Dave Cook at the site of the Mt. Baker Gateway project.

Aspect's Jessica Smith and Dave Cook at the site of the Mt. Baker Gateway project.

Aspect has been leading the environmental strategy with Mt. Baker Housing’s legal advisor, Seattle law firm, Perkins Coie. Like any complex urban brownfield project, progress requires a unique strategy, buy-in of stakeholders, and a demonstration of a win-win. The environmental cleanup consulting that Aspect is providing will set the stage for remedial cleanup of petroleum and solvent-contaminated soil and groundwater. The cleanup action will do more than benefit the parcels, it will improve environmental quality of this part of the neighborhood. Groundbreaking is estimated for 2019.

Look out for future project updates and milestones as we play our part in realizing the vision of this community and stakeholders for affordable, sustainable, and healthy housing in Seattle.

Meet John Knutson and Bill Rice

Principal Water Resources Engineer John Knutson and Senior Water Resources Scientist/Hydrologist Bill Rice are two members of Aspect’s new stormwater engineering team in our Yakima office. We asked these five questions to get to know them better…

John Knutson

John Knutson and family at the Wallowa Lake Tram

John Knutson and family at the Wallowa Lake Tram

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I’ve lived in the northwest all my life. For most of my childhood, I lived in the very small southeast Alaskan town of Craig (pop. of maybe 200). Craig is on Prince of Wales Island. When I lived there it was the epitome of rural Alaska--isolated, wild, scenic, and…no television. When not in school, I spent my days roaming the islands and enjoying all the outdoor activities that Alaska offered. When I was a teen my family moved to Wallowa County in northeast Oregon, where I went to high school in Enterprise (pop. 2,000). Life in Wallowa County was a slightly different version of life in Alaska--rural, scenic, lots of wilderness, lots of outdoor activity, just a few more people. Wallowa County is referred to as the Swiss Alps of Oregon and if you’ve never been there, I’d highly recommend a trip to Joseph (bronze art mecca), Wallowa Lake (beautiful glacially formed lake nestled below 9,000- and 10,000-foot mountains), and Eagle Cap Wilderness. While at Wallowa Lake, consider taking the European style tram up 3,700 vertical feet to the top of Mt. Howard (Elev. 8,150 ft.). 

After high school, I attended a community college then transferred to Oregon State University where I received a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Bioresource Engineering, both with an emphasis in environmental and water resource engineering. I worked as a water resource consultant and stormwater researcher in Portland for seven years before moving to the Yakima area in 2000 to take a job as Yakima County’s first Surface Water Manager. I went back into consulting in 2005.

2.    What inspired you to pursue water resources (define this as you’d like)? What made you curious about it? Almost every activity I loved while growing up revolved around water and wild places. Once in college, I naturally migrated towards environmental courses focused on restoring, protecting, and responsibly managing water resources and related ecosystems. I studied topics such as the transport and fate of pollutants in the environment, hazardous waste remediation, ecology, toxicology, hydrology, hydrogeology, atmospheric science, etc. At the same time, I really started noticing firsthand the degradation of ecosystems and aquatic resources by a whole suite of land uses, and I decided my career should involve doing something about it. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I like that the projects I work on--whether stormwater, floodplain, habitat, or water supply related--are focused on moving communities towards a more sustainable state. I enjoy the appreciation that I and my team receive when we help clients (typically cities and counties) successfully implement programs and win-win projects that more effectively manage our resources and restore our environment.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When I’m not working, I enjoy helping my two boys connect to the outdoors the way I did when I was their age. I live on the edge of the Cascade Mountains west of Yakima and I spend my free time hiking, camping, foraging for wild mushrooms and berries, rockhounding, doing lapidary and silver work, jewelry making, snowmobiling, cooking, and sampling the many great microbrewery products the region has to offer.

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? I’d like to go back to southeast Alaska in summer to camp on the islands, watch the orcas, fish for salmon and halibut, and catch fresh Dungeness crab, king crab, and clams. 

Bill Rice

Bill Rice and family at Cherry Harvest

Bill Rice and family at Cherry Harvest

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I’m originally from the Kenmore/Bothell area, but my family moved to the Yakima Valley when I was 11 years old to become apple farmers.

2.    What inspired you to pursue water resources? What made you curious about it? Growing up in the Yakima Valley, and now as an orchardist myself, I have always been aware of the importance, need, and impacts of water supply; water is the lifeblood of this valley. Early in my career, I spent several years working as a hydrologist and water quality scientist for the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Roza-Sunnyside Irrigation Districts, which fueled my passion for clean water. 

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I enjoy the pace and challenge of our work. I often have the opportunity to help solve complex problems that have impactful and beneficial solutions for individuals, municipalities, and the environment. 

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When I’m not working, I’m still working. I have two amazing, outgoing, and intelligent daughters (12 and 15) that keep me running between their many activities, and it’s a full-time job taking care of my farm. I own 8 acres of Bing cherries, tend to my ever-growing veggie garden, raise several species of trees (oaks are my passion), and have several more acres to keep up with. My girls, wife Heidi, and I are looking forward to adding some peaches, apricots, and plums to the orchard this spring.

5.    Where in the world would you like to travel next? I have always wanted to snorkel the reefs of Belize.

Meet Curtis Nickerson and James Packman

Aspect welcomes Curtis Nickerson and James Packman! Curtis Nickerson joins as Senior Associate Environmental Scientist, specializing in evaluating and designing stormwater and surface water monitoring programs. James joins as Senior Hydrologist focusing on surface water flow/discharge, water quality, sediment quality, and environmental compliance. Both Curtis and James are in Aspect's Seattle office. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better.

Curtis Nickerson

Curtis Nickerson

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in Huntington Beach, in Southern California. My wife and I visited friends in Seattle during a summer road trip in 1992 and decided the summers here were much more tolerable than in Sacramento, where were living while I was in grad school at UC Davis. After graduation, I sent resumes up here and got a couple of offers, so off we moved to the Great Northwest and haven’t looked back since. 

2.    What inspired you to pursue environmental science? What made you curious about it? As a kid, I loved being in the outdoors. I camped and backpacked all the time and was also a bit of an environmental activist. I knew I wanted to pursue an environmental career as far back as sixth grade, although at the time the best I could define it was “as a forest ranger.” I recall that one of my middle-school teachers told me, “You’ll get over it,” but my eighth-grade science teacher was very supportive and inspiring. As a teenager, I wanted to do my part to improve and protect the environment—participating in many conservation projects from habitat restoration in coastal marshes to building watering holes for bighorn sheep in the Mojave Desert. In college, I took a resource-policy/environmental education track, but after working in consulting for a couple of years decided to switch to a technical/science field, so I went back to get an MS in Water Science.     

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I enjoy solving problems in new ways, particularly around environmental data collection. I am excited when I can work with my group to tackle challenges using cutting-edge technology that improves data quality and provides great value to our clients.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working?  When I’m not working, I’m mostly hanging out with my family – my wife Kim, my son Charlie (17) our dog Sparky and my eldest son Henry (21) when he’s home from college. I am active in Charlie’s Boy Scout Troop, so I get to go on camping trips and other outings regularly with the group. I like to get on my bike, paddle my kayak, and get out fishing when I can, and am trying to do those things more. 

5.    Where would your dream house be located? Since this is a dream, I’d like my house to be on a remote high country lake, next to the ocean but not too far from a vibrant city – not asking too much, right?

James Packman

James Packman

1.    Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I grew up in the Detroit area - Motor City! It was a childhood filled with fast cars, Rock and Roll, arcade video games at the mall, skiing on small icy hills, and the Tigers winning the World Series in 1984. But Detroit is in the flat Midwest and I yearned for the mountains after several trips “out west” to ski and visit relatives and friends.

I moved to the Pacific Northwest to go to a small liberal arts college, the Evergreen State College. Despite its bubble-like culture in the woods outside of Olympia, Evergreen was a great place to learn. I earned a B.A in English and a B.S. in Geology and Ecology. It was just a couple hours drive to the mountains and I never looked back at the Midwest. I moved to Seattle and continued my studies at the University of Washington, where I earned an M.S. in Forest Engineering with an emphasis on hydrology. I’ve also lived, for short periods, in Colorado at 10,000 feet and in two cities in Israel, one in the coastal plain on the shores of the Mediterranean and the other in the mountains of the Galilee in the north.

2.    What inspired you to pursue hydrology? What made you curious about it?
My interest in hydrology and natural sciences in general was first sparked by the creek flowing through the backyard of my childhood home. Almost daily, my friends and I would walk the creek down to the pond in the neighborhood. We would have stick-floating races, get down and dirty with the crawfish, crawl through culverts, and imagine ourselves explorers of the wild. We walked this creek year-round, even when frozen or partially frozen, which often resulted in cold wet feet. Being so close to the creek, groundwater flooding occurred often and our basement would flood during heavy rains. The sump pump in the basement attuned me to how the water got there and helped make the connection in my mind between the rising creek, the eroded banks, the rise and fall of the water table, and our flooded basement.

The other big water influence for me was sailing with my family on the Great Lakes. We sailed for day-trips on Lake St. Clair and weeks-long summertime trips throughout Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Later when I was in grad school visiting Michigan and sailing with my parents, I tried to explain Froude numbers to them. My Dad just laughed and told me to pay attention to where I was steering as I was pinching, sailing too close to the wind, and the sail was luffing. As a former quartermaster in the Navy, he didn’t need to understand Froude numbers to know how to sail fast.

3.    What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? I often get asked by friends or visitors to Seattle “how’s the water?”. As a scientist, my response to questions is usually another question, so I ask “which water?”. As an essential component of life that is an inherently unstable molecule, I am amazed by the incredible diversity of where water is found, the various forms it takes, its power and fragility, how it can be both a salvation and a danger, and the myriad ways that small actions can have profound effects on natural waters.

What motivates me about working as a hydrologist are the problems to be solved. We know how to clean up dirty water (for the most part), how to make drinkable water from the oceans, how to collect and deliver water efficiently, how to predict rain, and how to conserve and make the most of every drop. But doing all of these things well is an ongoing challenge and can almost always be improved. Through my work, I feel fulfilled knowing that I’ve contributed, however big or small, to the mindful management, conservation, and sustainability of our use of water and impact on it.

4.    What do you like to do when you aren’t working? I’m a firm believer in the “work to live” maxim and not the other way around. It’s one of the shared values at Aspect that drew me here. Some of the most enjoyable things I do when I’m not working are:

  • Piano. I’m a classical pianist and love music.
  • Skiing winter, hiking summer, yoga all year.
  • Shabbat. It’s the Hebrew word for Sabbath and refers to a weekly day of rest. It’s a great way to have some down time and recharge after a busy week.
  • Family and friends. Spending time with my partner, Andrew, our friends in Seattle and elsewhere, and our parents and siblings and their children. We are close with our nine nieces and nephews, who live in Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Chicago. 

5.    What five people would be your dream dinner party guests? 

  1. Felix Mendelssohn, one of the great classical composers. He died too young at the age of 38. 
  2. Mordechai, the hero in the Book of Esther, the Purim story. We could use his political savvy as much today as ever.
  3. Richard Feynman, the late theoretical physicist. His boundless curiosity about the natural world is an ongoing inspiration.
  4. My great-great-great grandparents. What was their life like in eastern Europe, what is the family tree before that, and what made them immigrate to America?
  5. My partner, Andrew. We are each other’s bashert (Yiddish for soulmate).


Aspect Honored with ACEC Award for Port Angeles Landfill Project

The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) honored Aspect’s Port Angeles Landfill Stabilization Project in both Washington and Oregon at the organizations’ annual Engineering Excellence Awards.

The Port Angeles Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) Slope Stabilization received a Grand award at the ACEC Oregon’s awards program in Portland, with Aspect’s Pete Stroud and Mark Swank in attendance. ACEC Washington recognized the project as a whole with a Silver Award for Social Economic and Sustainable Design Considerations at its Awards Gala in Bellevue.

Aspect was part of a large multidisciplinary team supporting the City of Port Angeles with environmental and geotechnical services on the $17 million project that moved 400,000 cubic yards of refuse away from a 140-foot bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca while building Washington’s tallest reinforced soil slope. Slope construction was completed in 2016, and we will continue support with groundwater quality and seawall fluid reporting, landfill gas system evaluation/optimization, and monitoring of the MSE slope and landfill cover.

Aspect also played a role in several other projects honored by ACEC Washington. We served as lead geotechnical engineer on the Lodge Creek Culvert Replacement for Kittitas County, which received the Silver Award for Successful Fulfillment of Client/Owner Needs. The University Link Extension, which Aspect led the design team on exploration, engineering geology, and hydrogeology to build Sound Transit’s light rail tunnel from Capitol Hill to the University of Washington, received a Gold Award for Transportation. We also were the lead geotechnical engineer on two Best in State Bronze Award-winning projects: NW Bucklin Hill Bridge & Estuary Enhancement in Kitsap County and the Dungeness River Railroad Trestle Replacement for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

The Seattle and Oregon editions of the Daily Journal of Commerce have an overview of this year’s AECE Washington and ACEC Oregon winners.