New GIS Tool Helps Remove Barriers to Salmon Habitat Connectivity

Clean, cold water. Lush riparian vegetation. Gravels for spawning. These are some of the elements that create healthy habitat for salmon. The Upper Columbia region has some of the best in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, not all of this habitat is within the salmon’s reach. Removing barriers such as culverts and dams is a top priority for salmon recovery goals, but there are thousands of barriers, limited resources to remove them, and a diverse group of stakeholders with issues to address. What everyone wants to know first is: how do we decide WHICH barriers to remove?

Instream barriers such as culverts like this can limit fish passage to available habitat.

Enter a New Tool for Fish Habitat Decision Making

In partnership with the Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board, the Upper Columbia Regional Technical Team (RTT), and a technical steering committee, Aspect created a GIS-based decision support tool that summarizes the overall quality of ecological conditions surrounding each instream barrier within the Wenatchee Basin. This custom spatial model provides insight into critical questions regarding barrier-removal priority:

  • Is there habitat available upstream from the barrier that salmon currently cannot access?

  • Is that available habitat of sufficient quality for salmon?

  • Is there known fish usage near the barrier already?

  • Are there barriers downstream blocking fish access?

This prioritization tool provides salmon-recovery stakeholders with a common approach to answer these questions. The variables under consideration at a barrier—upstream habitat quality, local stream temperature, connectivity to other barriers, etc.—each receive a score. Those scores are then added up to a total priority tier ranking for that barrier. By assessing each barrier through this scoring process, we’ve created an actionable apples-to-apples comparison of habitat benefits associated with barrier removal.

A preview of barrier removal ranking priority data.

A preview of barrier removal ranking priority data.

A Tier 1 ranking indicates the top priority for removal, indicating more biological benefit gained from a barrier’s removal. Tier 4 ranking is the lowest priority ranking, indicating little biological benefit gained from a barrier’s removal. UCSRB and the RTT use these categories to guide decisions on proposed project funding. The rankings are updated as available data sources improve.  Preview the results HERE. This tool will allow stakeholders to align and coordinate their barrier removal work towards the larger common goal of salmon-habitat connectivity within the Upper Columbia and throughout the state.

If interested in adapting this tool for your project and/or basin(s), contact Robyn Pepin for more information.

ETA (6/3/2019): Robyn Pepin and Taylor Rulien’s poster for this GIS tool won best analytical data presentation at 2019’s WAURISA Conference. Check it out here.

Henry Haselton named President-Elect of ASCE Seattle Section

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Seattle Section has a new President-Elect: Aspect’s Principal Engineer Henry Haselton.

Henry was voted in by the Seattle Section in June. He will serve as President-Elect under incoming President Eset Alemu this year, and then transition to President in October 2019. Henry has been a member of the ASCE since joining the student chapter 26 years ago and has served on several committees, most recently as Program Co-Chair, where he was tasked with brainstorming meeting topics and recruiting speakers for the section’s monthly dinner meetings.

As part of his transition to President-Elect, Henry attended the ASCE Region 8 Fall Assembly Meeting in Spokane, where he met leadership from all the western states and ASCE National President Kristina Swallow. Attendees were treated to an “engineers tour” of the Grand Coulee dam, where they learned about the inner workings of the dam from an experienced operator at the facility.

Henry also recently attended the ASCE President and Governors Forum (PGF) Event in Washington D.C., where he participated in trainings with ASCE leaders from around the world. The PGF training provides best practices to effectively lead a Section/Branch.

Henry is joined by other Aspect colleagues in the ASCE Seattle Section. Project Geotechnical Engineer Spencer Ambauen, EIT, is taking over Henry’s position as Program Co-Chair. Staff Engineer Mari Otto, EIT, is in her second term as Host and Hospitality Co-Chair, where she coordinates with the host venue and oversees meeting registration.

Aspect’s ASCE team kicked off the 2018-2019 season earlier in September with presentations on the upcoming demolition of the SR99 Viaduct and the Pier 62 Replacement, a project where Aspect is the geotechnical engineer-of-record. The ASCE Seattle Section Geotechnical Group’s first dinner meeting of the season was on Thursday, September 27 in Seattle. Professor Russell A. Green, PhD, a Professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech, spoke on region-specific probabilistic liquefaction hazard analyses through a pilot study done in the Netherlands due to induced seismicity from natural gas production. Learn about upcoming events here.

Meet our Portland Staff!

Aspect is not only launching a new Portland office, we're also welcoming new staff with expert knowledge of the region. Peter Stroud joins us as a Senior Associate Engineering Geologist with over 30 years of experience on engineering, engineering geologic, geotechnical, and environmental projects. Mark Swank joins us as a Senior Engineering Geologist with over 14 years of experience performing engineering and geologic analysis for schools, dams, and infrastructure projects in the greater Portland area. Here are five questions we asked to get to know them better. 

Pete Stroud

Pete Stroud

1.       Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I was born in a small town north of San Francisco and grew up in Sacramento. After going to college and working in northern California for several years, my wife and I took a 10-month trip to explore Alaska, Canada, and travel around the US. At the end of the trip, we thought we’d settle in the Pacific Northwest. We both had good college friends who lived in Portland. We stopped to visit and never left—we’ve lived here now for 29 years!

2.       What inspired you to pursue geology? What made you curious about it? From an early age, I enjoyed backpacking—particularly the above-timberline, glaciated, granitic Sierra Nevada mountains. I loved the out-of-doors and for college I applied to be a forestry major. It was so popular at my chosen college that there were no spots available! I took advantage that the college had openings for the “undeclared” major.  I took Intro to Geology my first term and really enjoyed it. The Department Chair encouraged me to declare being a geology major.  I never regretted the decision, and I realized it wasn’t the forest that turned me on, it was those rocky mountains!

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? Geology has so many applications, and as a result I’ve been a geologist in so many types of projects: mineral exploration, watershed restoration, groundwater supply, fluvial geomorphology, landslide mapping and mitigation, geotechnical engineering, environmental assessments and cleanup, and dam removals. The variety of projects keeps work interesting and there’s always more to learn. Also in my personal time, it’s great to look around at the landscape, evaluate the geomorphology, and try to figure out what geologic processes shaped the land.

4.       What do you do like to do when you aren’t working? I enjoy photography, reading about the early exploration of America, sea kayaking, biking, backpacking, white water rafting, cooking, eating Cajun foods, watching Blazer games and college football, and sampling microbrews.

5.       Where in the world would you like to travel next? For the longest time I’ve wanted to go to Africa and finally did so this year. For the next foreign trip, I’d like to go to Costa Rica and /or Peru. 

Mark Swank

Mark Swank

1.       Where are you from? If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest, what brought you here? I was born and raised in the South Bay Area (San Francisco Bay Area), and my wife and I moved to Portland about 10 years ago. The housing market was a little crazy in Silicon Valley in 2006, and we were looking for a place to locate that was affordable and fit our lifestyle. My wife worked for Intel so we looked for locations where we could both transfer with our jobs, which narrowed the possibilities to Scottsdale, Folsom, and Hillsboro – Hillsboro being the easy choice.

2.       What inspired you to pursue engineering geology? What made you curious about it?After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Soil Science/Env. Management in 1999, my first job was working on a NavyCLEAN project with IT in the Central Valley on the closed Crows Landing Naval Air Base as an environmental scientist. I worked a lot with the lead geologist and what he was doing seemed far more interesting than what I was doing. I had always intended to get a Master’s degree in something – just wasn’t 100 percent what at the time I graduated. After my first engineering geology class in my Master’s program, I knew landslides and faults were for me. California has lots of regulations when it comes to faults that require a CEG stamp and I worked for a guy during my graduate studies that specialized in fault and geohazard studies for residential properties. Moving to Oregon put an end to the fault investigations, but landslides and the Northwest go together quite well.

3.       What do you like best about your area of expertise? What excites you and keeps you motivated? What I like best is that my work is something new all the time and no project is the same. I’ve always had a hard time explaining to people what I do for a living because it is so many different things, and I like that. I’m motivated and excited to always be learning something new. I would have left this field a long time ago if I had to do the same thing every day.

4.       What do you like to do when you aren’t working? I like to hang out with my family and vacation in warm, preferably tropical locations. For hobbies, I swim regularly, ski in the winter, play in a couple of soccer leagues, and hike.

5.       What five people would be your dream dinner party guests? Albert Einstein, Jon Stewart, Hemingway, Picasso, and Maria Theresa.

Announcing Aspect Portland


Aspect Consulting is crossing the Columbia, opening up shop in downtown Portland.

Aspect Portland is a reality made possible by two extraordinary additions to our team: engineering geologists Pete Stroud and Mark Swank. Pete and Mark are both Portland locals, with decades of combined consulting experience between them. Our Portland team increases the breadth of technical talent available to our existing clients, as well as offering Oregon clients access to our 70+ person team of geotechnical, water resources, remediation engineers, hydrogeologists, and geologists.

 “Mark and I are excited to join Aspect and launch the Portland office. With Portland’s infrastructure market growing, many ongoing environmental cleanup projects throughout the region, and the challenge of managing limited water supply across the state, we really feel Aspect’s proven experience in those areas and deep roster of high-performing technical advisors is a great fit to help our Oregon clients succeed.” said Pete Stroud.

Pete Stroud

Pete Stroud

Pete joins Aspect as a Senior Associate Engineering Geologist, with over 30 years of professional experience leading engineering, engineering geologic, geotechnical, and environmental projects.

Mark Swank

Mark Swank

Mark joins Aspect as a Senior Engineering Geologist with over 14 years of experience performing engineering and geologic analysis for schools, dams, and infrastructure projects. Mark and Pete were colleagues for over 10 years at Kleinfelder’s Portland office and bring their strong partnership to Aspect.

“This is a great time and a great team to bring Aspect’s extensive project experience to the greater Portland/Vancouver area and up the Columbia Gorge,” said Tim Flynn, President and Principal Hydrogeologist at Aspect. “Mark and Pete’s 40 years of combined consulting experience in the Portland area gives us immediate credibility with local clients and sets Aspect up for long-term success in the region.”

Highlights of their Portland and Pacific Northwest projects include the I-5 Willamette River Crossing in Eugene, Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOTWP) pipeline project, Condit Dam Decommissioning, Scoggins Dam Raise, Oregon Convention Center, Hoyt Street Properties Redevelopment and a tradition of working and managing a variety of on-call professional services contracts throughout the state.

Aspect’s new Portland office is located at 522 SW Fifth Avenue, Suite 1300, in the historic Yeon Building on the Portland Transit Mall in the heart of downtown. Keeping with Aspect’s commitment to sustainability, it’s a convenient, accessible location, close to our clients and teaming partners.