Kicking Off a Yearlong Look into Kitsap Peninsula’s Groundwater Supply

Over the next year, one 900-foot-deep well in Silverdale, Washington will play a key role to help forecast future water needs for Kitsap County communities. A unique year-long pumping test led by Kitsap PUD, with support from Aspect, will produce a treasure trove of water data to evaluate groundwater supply, pumping effects on other groundwater sources, and impacts to streamflows. The well will be pumped continuously at a rate of 1,000 gallons per minute and the effects of the high pumping rate will be measured across a 50+ well network. While pumping tests are a common tool in a hydrogeologist’s tool kit, the year-long length of this test is rare. “Hydrogeologist’s dream of doing this kind of aquifer test,” said Joel Purdy of Kitsap PUD.

Read more about this exciting project in this article from the Kitsap Sun.


Clean, Cold Water at the Entiat Hatchery Means Healthy Fish

Earlier this spring, fisheries managers made a startling announcement: there would be no recreational salmon fishing in the Columbia River or its tributaries in 2019. Simply put, there weren’t enough fish to go around.

Aspect Angler Jordan Sanford with a catch on the Enitat

Then, the unexpected happened. Day by day and fish by fish, the number of salmon ascending the Columbia River grew. By early July, increasing counts of summer-run Chinook returning to the upper Columbia made it clear that broodstock goals for regional hatchery programs would indeed be met. On July 11, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife shared some exciting news: local anglers would have a salmon-fishing season after all.

As showcased in a recent article in the Wenatchee World, one reason for this year’s fishing season is strong returns of adult Chinook to the Entiat National Fish Hatchery. In 2014, Aspect hydrogeologists assessed the hatchery’s water supplies and rights, and the condition of their infrastructure. Aspect’s recommendations helped improve the hatchery’s access to a reliable supply of clean, cold water—one of many factors that contribute to healthy juvenile fish and hard-fighting adults at the end of an angler’s line.

Reducing Washington State Drought Impacts in the Okanogan River Basin

In both the northern reaches, high desert region, and even the Olympic Peninsula—literally one of the wettest places in the lower 48 states historically—summer 2019 is a serious drought year in Washington State. Earlier this spring, the governor declared a drought emergency, which was able to unlock emergency relief options and funding for 27 watersheds across the entire state. In the Methow, Okanogan, and upper Yakima River watersheds, it’s particularly bad. Based on current forecasting, the Okanogan is expected to be at 58 percent of normal, and curtailment notification letters have already been sent to local water users. However, this drastic forecast has prompted forward thinking. 

In partnership with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), the Oroville-Tonasket Irrigation District (OTID) has developed a “water bank” in the Okanogan River basin to help regional water users impacted by the drought. The water bank will be used to support instream flows and to assist “junior” water users during periods of curtailment. OTID is seeding the bank with two of its senior water rights. In 2018, Ecology, with assistance from Aspect, certified these water rights through the state’s Certified Water Right Examiner process. 

Ecology is working to complete the required permitting to place the water rights in the state’s Trust Water Right Program (TWRP) to create the water bank (read more about water banks on Ecology’s website). This water bank will be seeded with about 7,500 acre feet of water, which will be made available for drought relief. From this bank, eligible water users can “withdraw” water for both irrigation and municipal or domestic uses.

 More information can be found at the following website:

https://www.aspectconsulting.com/otidwaterbank

Wet weather season: When the levees go to work

November is historically the wettest month of the year in western Washington. The seemingly constant mist of precipitation punctuated by storms that dump inches of rain in short amounts of time sends water levels in area rivers rising. The risk of flooding presents a critical need to protect nearby homes, businesses, and habitat. Levees a play a key role in that protection.

In the old days of flood control, a levee was typically little more than a pile of dirt. These days, they’re still dirt, but have evolved into a highly engineered, specifically designed mass, often made from less permeable soil (like clay) and designed wider at the base and narrower at the top. Levees are especially critical in floodplain areas to maintain healthy fish and riparian habitats, and of course near neighborhoods and businesses that would be vulnerable should a river top its banks.

While western Washington’s levees are working to protect their surrounding areas, Aspect is hard at work supporting several levee improvement projects in King County and beyond. Our services for recent and ongoing projects include:

Lower Russel Road Levee Setback, Kent, WA

Lower Russel Road Levee Setback, Kent, WA
Map from King County's Project Website

Lead geotechnical engineer and hydrogeologic support for Lower Russell Road Levee Setback, which is improving 1.4 miles of the flood control system along the Green River in Kent. Once completed, the project will provide greater flood protection and water conveyance capacity while improving both riparian habitat and recreational opportunities. This project is nearing the 60 percent design stage of completion, and is anticipated to be constructed by 2020. More project information and pictures can be found on King County’s project page

South Unit Shillapoo and Buckmire Slough Restoration Design, Vancouver, WA

South Unit Shillapoo and Buckmire Slough Restoration Design, Vancouver, WA
Map from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s project website

Geotechnical engineering and hydrogeologic efforts for the South Unit Shillapoo and Buckmire Slough Restoration Design, along the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. The project will improve hydrologic access to approximately 540 acres of intertidal, freshwater slough and wetland habitat. Our work first includes subsurface explorations and geotechnical design for breaching the existing levee (to clear room for the new levee); constructing three WSDOT bridges along State Route 501; flood control levee construction; roadway raises to meet 100-year flood elevations; and construction of up to 14 interior water control structures in the wetland system. You can read more about the project on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s website

Countyline Levee Setback, Pacific, WA

Environmental and geotechnical support for the Countyline Levee Setback project along the White River near Pacific, just north of the border with Pierce County. When contaminated materials were encountered during construction of the Levee Setback project, our environmental team advised the County on whether the material posed a risk to the project if left in-place, while also determining proper disposal methods. Our geotechnical engineers conducted a targeted, cost-effective investigation to study flooding during high flows and collected data to inform the levee setback design. The project was finished this fall, just in time for late October rains, and now protects 121 acres of floodplain. See an aerial video of the project below

Pacific Right Bank Project, Pacific, WA

Pacific Right Bank Project, Pacific, WA
Map from King County’s project website

In late November, Aspect will provide both geotechnical and environmental services on the Pacific Right levee setback, along the opposite site of the White River from the Countyline Levee. The project will create a setback levee between the BNSF Railway and Government Canal to significantly reduce the potential for river flooding of adjacent neighborhoods. Learn more about the project on King County’s project website.