Attracting Talent – Simple Steps, Great Results

Lindsay Pearsall - Director of Human Resources

Earth science and engineering firms are in a buyer’s market in 2019. Anyone in a leadership position in the Architectural/ Engineering/ Construction industry knows the mantra of “Always Be Recruiting.” At Aspect, we are no different. Our success (and our clients’) hinges on our ability to find and retain the most talented consultants in our industry. It’s essential, then, that our Human Resources department takes a very thoughtful approach to finding and hiring this top-tier talent.

Recently, at RecruitMAX 2019 – one of the A/E/C industry’s top professional industry conferences—Aspect’s HR Director Lindsay Pearsall shared a segment of her approach with a presentation “How to Build a REAL Candidate Pipeline with Phone Interviews and Informational Interviews.”

Some takeaways of Lindsay’s presentation are:

  • Why treating your candidate like a client should be your #1 priority

  • Conducting informational interviews to go beyond your current hiring needs

  • Simple solutions, like how and when to follow up with individuals, to maintain relationships

Lindsay’s presentation stressed that hiring managers need to remember how difficult it is to be a candidate. By flipping the script and treating candidates like a client, we are able to humanize the experience. Whether someone is hired or not, they should have an expectation of a positive experience and feel valued as a professional and as a human.

See current job openings for Aspect here:

A Peek Inside Washington State's Draft Industrial Stormwater General Permit

Stormwater discharges from over 1,200 industrial facilities are covered under Washington’s Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP). The goal of the ISGP is to reduce the discharge of pollutants by improving management of stormwater at industrial sites. It originates from a combination of federal (the Clean Water Act) and Washington state (Water Pollution Control Act) law. Under the ISGP, permittees are required to implement Best Management Practices to reduce stormwater pollution, monitor their stormwater discharges, compare the results with benchmark values, and implement an escalating series of corrective actions depending on the number of times the benchmarks are exceeded. The current permit has brought compliance challenges, including expensive stormwater treatment systems and citizen law suits, to many permittees.

On May 1, 2019, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) published a draft of the next ISGP for public comment. Owen Reese, PE, Aspect’s stormwater practice lead, offers this synopsis:

What Won’t Change

Many of the key permit provisions will not change. The five core water quality benchmarks—turbidity, pH, oil sheen, copper and zinc—remain the same, and the requirements and deadlines for implementing corrective actions if those benchmarks are exceeded remain unchanged.

Proposed Changes

Increasing Focus on Infiltration to Groundwater – The most significant proposed changes relate to discharges to groundwater. Ecology is proposing changes to groundwater-related provisions that leave the impression that they intend to increasingly regulate infiltration of stormwater under the ISGP. This sets Ecology on a divergent course from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who recently issued an interpretative statement that discharges to groundwater are categorically excluded from the permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act. The interpretative statement does not apply to Washington and other states in the 4th and 9th Districts while Hawai’i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui is pending before the Supreme Court. 

Ecology has also struck language from the permit in several locations, including key groundwater-related provisions, without identifying it as a change—which could be problematic for reviewers.

Adding Two New Industries – Ecology proposes to add two new industries to ISGP coverage: marine construction and certain heavy equipment rentals. Neither of these industries are currently required to have NPDES coverage for stormwater discharges under the Clean Water Act. What activities qualify as “marine construction” can also be challenging to define as it does not fall within easily definable Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAISC) code, and Ecology confounds this issue by not including the definition of marine construction in the draft ISGP.

Identifying Industries by NAICS Codes – Ecology proposes to identify industries that require ISGP coverage by NAICS code, instead of SIC code. The Clean Water Act remains based on SIC codes, and there is a not a one-to-one relationship between the two codes. As a result, Ecology’s translation of SIC codes to NAICS appears to have included, perhaps inadvertently, several business sectors that previously did not require permit coverage, such as:

  • Miniwarehouses and Self-Storage Units (NAICS 531130)

  • Scenic and Site Seeing Transportation (NAICS 487990)

  • Commercial Air and Rail Equipment Rental (NAICS 532411)

Puget Sound Sediment Cleanup Sites – Ecology has re-upped the requirements that permittees discharging to a Puget Sound Sediment Cleanup site (such as the Duwamish, Elliott Bay, Commencement Bay, Port Gardner Bay, or Bellingham Bay) will need to sample stormwater sediments and clean their pipes at least once in the next 5-year permit cycle. It was not clear in the prior permit that these would be recurring obligations.

Annual Sampling to Confirm Consistent Attainment – Under the draft permit language, facilities that have achieved consistent attainment by meeting water quality benchmarks would be required to collect one sample per year (in the fourth quarter). Any exceedance of a benchmark would bump the facility out of consistent attainment and require resuming quarterly sampling.

Sampling First Fall Storm Earlier – Ecology proposes to shift the requirement to sample the first flush a month earlier, to beginning September 1 of each year. We’ll likely see more third quarter benchmark exceedances as a result, as there are fewer summer storms to sample to average with the first flush.

What the Proposed Changes Could Mean

Although ostensibly aimed at providing clarity, the revisions incorporated into draft ISGP actually increase the opportunity for confusion. If the draft ISGP language is implemented, we may see more citizen suits, particularly related to the use of NAICS codes and stormwater discharges to groundwater. Ecology could remedy some of these concerns by clearly identifying which provisions of the ISGP are based in federal law, and which originate at the state level.

Comments on the draft permit are due on June 29 and can be submitted online at: Ecology is also hosting three more public hearings where comments can be given in person:  

Contact Owen Reese at 206-838-5844 or with any questions on the proposed changes and implications.

Aspect personnel collecting a sediment sample at an industrial site.

Aspect personnel collecting a sediment sample at an industrial site.

James Packman Talks Interdisciplinary Skills and Water’s Role in Urban Environmental Planning to UW Class

Senior Hydrologist James Packman recently presented to “Planning as a Profession,” a senior-level urban planning class in the College of the Built Environment at the University of Washington. The nearly 30 students come from different majors and career trajectories—among them are future architects, landscape architects, city planners, urban designers, real estate professionals, construction managers, engineers, environmental scientists, and more.

James Packman, Senior Hydrologist

James Packman, Senior Hydrologist

James’ presentation, entitled “Environmental Skills, Water Resources, and Urban Planning,” gave a holistic view of environmental considerations in urban planning—from the skills and interests that lead a person to the profession and the different disciplines working in the industry to the laws and regulations that drive project design, permitting, and building and examples of water-focused planning. His overarching message focused on interdisciplinary skills, and he gave examples of Aspect projects where collaboration between disciplines was vital to address the environmental elements.

For example, the Waypoint Park project along Bellingham’s shoreline incorporated coastal geology, hydrogeology, stormwater management, civil and geotechnical engineering, landscape architecture, habitat restoration ecology, and more to reclaim a contaminated former industrial site to an urban waterfront park.

Waypoint Park Before and After Construction
City of Bellingham’s Waypoint Park incorporated many environmental planning steps to turn a former industrial site into an urban waterfront park.

James also introduced the practical side of business consulting, or how people and firms pursue and win public work, and walked students through the Request for Qualifications / Request for Proposals process. His key message for being on winning teams is that it requires networking in and outside of one’s discipline and forging relationships with public agency staff to learn their needs.

He ended by going over a homework assignment about the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist process and its key role in urban planning projects. The homework reinforced the variety of environmental disciplines—geology, hydrology, archeology, botany, wildlife biology, engineering, and more—along with professional skills—technical reading comprehension, writing, project management, public speaking, quantitative analysis, and more—that are needed to complete the checklist.

James will present to a new set of students when he returns to the class in Spring Quarter 2019.

Aspect’s Tom Atkins Presenting at ECOSS’s 201X: Stormwater Management Workshop


On October 18th and 19th, ECOSS will be hosting 201X: Advanced Stormwater Management, a two-day workshop that looks at Industrial Stormwater General Permit (ISGP) requirements and compliance. This event is geared toward helping permittees, consultants, and engineers gain a deeper understanding of the permit by presenting several case studies and touring industrial sites with installed treatment technologies.

Aspect’s Tom Atkins will present the case study, “Alternative Pathways to Achieving Level 3 Corrective Action Requirements.” His presentation will include 3 case studies featuring roof downspout filters, pressurized filtration, adsorptive media, and discharge to publicly owned treatment works (POTW).

Learn more about the workshop HERE.

Aspect Joins The Nature Conservancy and Microsoft to Hack for Good

Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently participated in a Hackathon with The Nature Conservancy and Microsoft employees. The Hack for Good event focused on developing low-cost stormwater monitoring solutions that could identify pollutants and collect data in real time.

Read more about this event on the Nature Conservancy's website.

Visualizing Stormwater Infiltration + Visualizing the Story

Aspect recently led a first-of-its-kind approach to help the City of SeaTac (City) understand water quality requirements at the land use planning stage. Aspect, along with Robin Kirschbaum, developed publicly-available webmaps that visualize stormwater infiltration potential at a parcel level across the City’s 10 square miles. These maps will help both City planners as well as developers screen development options with infiltration requirements and make this step of the land use planning process much more efficient.

Take a look at the interactive Story Map for this exciting new tool here:

Read Emelie’s article in the Daily Journal of Commerce about this pioneering project.

Setting the Stage for Alaska Airlines’ 128,000-Square-Foot Groundbreaking

Alaska Airlines recently deepened its local roots with a groundbreaking for a new 128,000-square-foot corporate facility in SeaTac.

Aspect is helping set the stage for this by providing environmental and geotechnical services to prep the property for development.  Our team evaluated property-wide environmental conditions and is serving as the geotechnical engineer of record, which includes designing foundations and shoring walls.  Aspect pilot tested and designed a deep stormwater infiltration system to sustainably manage stormwater and get it back into the ground in a more native/natural way. This helped achieve the sustainability goals of the project. We will be on hand to perform construction observation as that kicks off. 

The “Hub” will be a 6-story office building scheduled for construction and then move-in for first quarter 2020.

The “Hub” will be a 6-story office building scheduled for construction and then move-in for first quarter 2020.

The May 3rd groundbreaking ceremony was attended by various city, county and state dignitaries, including governor Jay Inslee, Congressman Adam Smith, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden, as well as Alaska employees and members from the surrounding community.

The May 3rd groundbreaking ceremony was attended by various city, county and state dignitaries, including governor Jay Inslee, Congressman Adam Smith, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden, as well as Alaska employees and members from the surrounding community.

The Story in the Sediment: Tracing Stormwater Pollution Sources at Superfund Sites

Since 2001, the lowest five miles of Seattle’s Duwamish River (known as the Lower Duwamish Waterway or LDW) has been designated as a 412-acre Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site. The LDW’s Superfund status results from decades of historical industrial activity. On top of the historical contamination, the LDW has ongoing issues with contaminated stormwater runoff. Rain hits the abundance of impervious surfaces – e.g., asphalt roads and lots, building roofs – in the industrial areas next to the river, collects contaminants from those surfaces, and carries it to the nearest storm drain and into the river.

Sediment sampling in Seattle's Lower Duwamish Superfund area helps identify contaminates and cleanup strategies to improve water quality. 

Among the many tasks in cleaning up Superfund sites is the ongoing detective work to sleuth what contaminants are there and where they came from. In the LDW cleanup, one of the key clues isn’t even in the river water itself, but in the sediment carried by stormwater. 

Aspect staff have sampled stormwater sediments across the LDW Superfund site – previously for the City of Seattle and King County and currently for the Port of Seattle at Harbor Island. Our efforts studying these solids in stormwater runoff provide key information about the recent history at a site and the extent of contamination.

The Benefits of Sediment Sleuthing: Unlike Water, It Accumulates

Unlike stormwater, which runs through and beyond an outfall to receiving waters, heavier sediments and other settleable solids (relatively heavy substances that sink in water) carried by runoff drop out and accumulate. This accumulation, which occurs in key locations such as stormwater catch basins, vaults, and low-gradient pipes, provides a rich environment for valuable leads on water quality contaminants that may eventually end up in streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and Puget Sound. Sediment monitoring often provides a more comprehensive historical picture of pollutants compared to instantaneous or short-term sampling of water alone.

At Superfund areas, and many other sites challenged by stormwater runoff, sediment monitoring benefits clients by: 

  • Providing a historical picture of pollution—through accumulated sediment analysis--associated with stormwater runoff and industrial discharge.
  • Identifying chronic types of pollution that may deteriorate water quality and habitat.
  • Tracing the sources of pollution to their origin for purposes of management, treatment, or elimination.
  • Determining sediment accumulation rates in sewers and catch basins to improve maintenance and operation needs and to anticipate and prevent flooding.
  • Complying with permits, records of decision, and other legal requirements for preventing environmental degradation or requiring cleanup of polluted sites.
  • Measuring the effect of land use activities and stormwater treatment best management practices (BMPs).

Tracking Hot Spots Across 600 Acres of Pavement and Buildings

Boeing Field (aka King County International Airport or KCIA) is one of the nation’s busiest primary non-hub airports and covers over 630 acres of mostly impervious surface. Managing stormwater runoff over this much area and with many industrial tenants is a challenge, especially because KCIA faces the challenge of being responsible for all discharge to the LDW from its property, even runoff or discharge in tenant-operated areas. 

Sediment traps in a storm sewer manhole

Sediment traps in a storm sewer manhole

Aspect staff previously performed inexpensive but high-resolution sediment monitoring throughout KCIA’s storm drainage infrastructure that ranged from shallow old brick manholes to deep new stormwater treatment vaults. The results from the sediment monitoring provided a finer-grained picture of accumulated sediment quality than had ever been collected at KCIA. This allowed King County to identify hot spots of likely pollution sources coming from both individual tenants and from legacy airport infrastructure and helped prioritize an action plan to address these areas.

Using Sediment Data to Track Down Drainage Ditch Polluters

In a different area of the LDW, sediment data helped the City of Seattle identify the source of intermittent toxic metal pollutants from a far upland drainage area to the LDW, despite having outdated drainage maps. 

Sediment collection in a storm sewer manhole

Sediment collection in a storm sewer manhole

Because the area was previously in unincorporated Seattle, sewer records were incomplete. With the assistance of an Ecology inspector who knew the area and businesses well, Aspect staff collected sediment samples from both the public and private drainage systems. The sediment samples helped both Ecology and the City efficiently trace the source of the metals pollution to a business that had a previously unknown illicit connection from its industrial waste drainage system to the ditches outside, which served as the public storm drainage.

Long-term Sediment Monitoring at Harbor Island to Support Environmental Compliance

Aspect is currently assisting the Port of Seattle with sediment monitoring at a 15-acre marine terminal on Harbor Island, a discrete Superfund site located downstream of the LDW Superfund area. The sediment monitoring supports the Port in demonstrating compliance with a Record of Decision (ROD) to rehabilitate the site. As a site that drains directly to Puget Sound, the objective of the cleanup (which included dredging and removing contaminated soil) is to reduce concentrations of hazardous substances in runoff to levels that will have no adverse effect on marine organisms. 

Sediment traps mounted on the side of a storm sewer manhole

Sediment traps mounted on the side of a storm sewer manhole

Sample bottles with accumulated sediment at the bottom

Sample bottles with accumulated sediment at the bottom

To evaluate this over the required 10-year monitoring period, Aspect is monitoring accumulated sediments in the new stormwater drainage system at the terminal for metals, tributyltin, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The results from the sediment monitoring are compared to target concentrations in the Washington State Sediment Management Standards and show the Port’s commitment to compliance with the ROD and to ensuring that the site rehabilitation was successful. 

Sediment Sampling Provides Key Historical Context to Water Quality Evaluation

Measuring sediment quality is an excellent – and affordable – complement to measuring water quality. Aspect’s sediment sleuthing has helped clients in the LDW create a more holistic picture of both historical and ongoing stormwater pollution, as well as flooding potential. From this picture, they are better able to identify sources of contamination and create specific plans to address them—leading to a healthier LDW for all. 

Looking Forward to StormCon – August 27-31

Aspect is excited to attend and present at the 16th Annual StormCon, August 27-31 in Bellevue, WA this year. This national conference, organized by Forester Media, offers a vast curriculum of workshops, certifications, and presentations focused on surface water quality. A diverse range of topics will be available over six tracks ranging from cutting edge research and technologies to lessons learned managing stormwater in various settings. Aspect’s Tom Atkins, Senior Associate Engineer, and James Packman, Senior Hydrologist, will be presenting on three topics at this year’s event. 

On Tuesday, August 29th, James Packman will be presenting with Beth Schmoyer from the City of Seattle on the design and testing results of an R&D pilot project to develop a new suspended solids fluvial sampling device (a.k.a. sediment trap). Later in the day, Tom Atkins will be presenting on the systematic approach and successful strategies that were used to achieve stormwater regulatory compliance at Maxum Petroleum’s diesel fueling and petroleum fuel/lubricant shipping and receiving facility located on Harbor Island in Seattle.

During the Wednesday, August 30th sessions, James will be presenting again, this time alongside Greg Vigoren from the City of Lakewood on the results of a regional evaluation of municipal stormwater source control inspection data. The project is part of the western Washington Stormwater Action Monitoring program and is the first time a regional evaluation of this type of data has been done in Washington.

Aspect’s Nickerson and Berkompas Develop New Rain Garden Performance Tool

Aspect’s Curtis Nickerson and Bryan Berkompas recently developed a promising new, low-cost, telemetered rain garden performance tool – the Water Detector -- that can help cities and counties improve rain garden performance.

As more people move to western Washington and settle in its urban areas, stormwater runoff from streets, driveways, lawns, and rooftops is recognized as a major source of pollution impacting our waterways. To counter this continuing and growing threat, municipalities are encouraging broader public awareness and tools that public and business can use to clean polluted runoff as close to the source as possible. In this effort, rain gardens have become a major component of municipal stormwater management programs in western Washington.

Figure credit:

Rain gardens are a relatively low-cost natural filter and sponge, where runoff can infiltrate into the soil on-site rather than flowing directly into storm drains, streams or lakes.  Rain gardens are affordable to install, are an attractive landscaping feature, and are relatively easy for home owners to maintain. In Seattle, rain gardens and associated “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” (GSI) manage nearly 100 million gallons of polluted runoff annually.

While raingardens are seeing more and more adoption across Western Washington, measuring performance has been an area that has seen improvement. Typical methods – such as measuring flow rates--are costly and out-of-reach for typical municipal programs to widely adopt. To help resolve this data quality issue, Berkompas and Nickerson designed the Water Detector to give users a low-cost tool to see how well their rain gardens are performing.

The Water Detector is a low-cost, telemetered tool that measures a rain garden’s hydraulic performance.  

The target users for the Water Detector are municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permittees (cities and counties) in Western Washington and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)s promoting the wide-scale use of Low Impact Development (LID) practices, including rain gardens.  Recently, all NPDES permittees in Western Washington revised their local development regulations to make LID methods, including rain gardens, “the preferred and commonly-used approach to site development.” Large investments by local governments for rain garden installations have already occurred and will continue to occur under the assumption that these facilities are working as intended. The Water Detector units could be deployed for a relatively low cost at hundreds of rain gardens across the region, providing real-world data to help assess the benefits of using rain gardens for decentralized stormwater flow-control on a broad-scale.

The initial target application for the Water Detector would be to assess a rain garden’s hydraulic performance. The single most important measure of rain garden performance, or lack of performance, is overflow or bypass, when excess runoff flows around or out of the rain garden instead of soaking into the soil. The Water Detector would be used to detect and record when and for how long the water level in a rain garden is at or above this bypass level. Data would then be uploaded automatically to cloud-based data storage via cellular or blue tooth technology. An additional potential application of this technology is monitoring bypass events at engineered stormwater treatment or detention systems to assess/alert when system maintenance is needed.  These data will help to assess and improve site evaluation and design methods, document long-term performance, and develop effective maintenance methods for rain gardens.

Prototypes have been developed, and Curtis and Bryan are currently identifying locations to test and deploy their Water Detectors. For more information, reach out to Curtis Nickerson ( or Bryan Berkompas (

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!


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 and Family

Heidi and Family

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.

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.

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.

Curtis Nickerson Presenting on Stormwater Monitoring Tips and Trip-Ups at Oregon ACEC

Aspect’s Senior Associate Environmental Scientist Curtis Nickerson will be presenting at Oregon’s ACEC Environmental Water Resources Group (EWRG) on January 25 at the Hawthorne Lucky Lab Brew Pub in Portland. Curtis will talk about lessons learned in his 20 years of chasing storms. He will pass along tips for anticipating trips-ups during sampling and discuss monitoring site selection; innovative instrumentation and methods for monitoring at difficult locations; field procedures and QA/QC activities for flow metering; and water sampling and sediment monitoring.

Aspect Welcomes Our New Stormwater Team and Services for Municipal Clients!

Aspect is thrilled to announce our hiring of a municipal water quality services team, formed by 11 new staff, highly regarded for stormwater engineering, planning, and monitoring solutions for public agencies across the Pacific Northwest and the Western US.

In bringing aboard the  new members—seven stormwater and surface water quality scientists led by Senior Associate Environmental Scientist Curtis Nickerson and four stormwater planning and engineering experts led by Principal Water Resources Engineer John Knutson—Aspect broadens its existing stormwater engineering and planning for industrial clients to offer a wider range of stormwater services to municipal clients.

Aspect’s stormwater practice lead, Owen Reese, explains, “This is a natural addition to our existing expertise in industrial stormwater management, born of the recognition that municipalities constantly face the challenge of efficiently maintaining compliance with increasingly complex stormwater regulations. Curtis and John’s teams are experts in doing all of this, with a long history of providing strategic advice to cities, counties, and public agencies.” 

Joining Aspect’s Seattle office, Senior Associate Environmental Scientist Curtis Nickerson leads a group recognized by clients and technical peers as industry leaders in stormwater and surface water monitoring and evaluation, with a background serving clients such as the Port of Seattle, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Seattle Public Utilities, City of Puyallup, and King and Snohomish Counties. Curtis’ team includes Associate Water Resources Scientist Heidi Wachter, Senior Hydrologists James Packman and Bryan Berkompas, Project Environmental Scientist Brad Kwasnowski, Staff Water Resources Specialist Rebecca Powell, and Staff Water Resources Engineer Brian Hite. This group has over 10 years of experience working together and specialize in storm response monitoring, programmatic National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit compliance, and using statistical approaches to help clients determine best practices for cleaning and maintaining drainage systems.

“Aspect is a great fit for our team. As water quality regulations become more mature, we’re seeing public agencies tasked with being more flexible and strategic in how they monitor and communicate the data. Aspect’s existing data management and technology group advances our monitoring team’s ability to communicate, analyze, and manage water quality results. This will help us deliver even better water quality programs for clients,” Curtis said.

Aspect’s new stormwater engineering team in Yakima is led by Principal Water Resources Engineer John Knutson, with his longtime staff of Senior Water Resources Scientist/Hydrologist Bill Rice, Project Water Resources Engineer Erik Pruneda, and Senior Staff Water Resources Technician Will Guyton.  John’s team has particular expertise in municipal stormwater planning, utility development, compliance training, and design, including extensive low impact development (LID) experience. They also provide a wide range of Underground Injection Control (UIC) compliance and design services, along with stream restoration and floodplain management. John and his team has worked for clients such as the Cities of Ellensburg, Kennewick, Pullman, Moscow, Spokane, and Tumwater; Asotin, Kittitas, Grant, Stevens, and Yakima Counties; and WSDOT. 

John notes that, “Local stormwater programs are always evolving in response to regulatory changes. Our role is to help communities comply while ensuring programs are efficient, effective, and tailored to their unique issues and needs. We excel in this arena, and are excited to help Aspect become one of the few truly full service stormwater firms in the Northwest.”  

With the addition of these new team members, Aspect’s stormwater group builds upon its established practice with an expanded capacity to provide services for industrial and municipal clients, including:

  • Comprehensive planning;
  • Stormwater utility formation;
  • NPDES Phase I/II and UIC compliance program development and implementation support;
  • Development of standards and design manuals;
  • System inventory and mapping; storm response monitoring and water quality evaluations;
  • Stormwater BMP effectiveness assessments;
  • Hydrologic and hydraulic modeling;
  • Data collection for hydrologic and water quality model calibration/validation;
  • Data quality management system development;
  • CIP development;
  • Design of both conventional and LID BMPs; and
  • Programmatic NPDES compliance assessments and strategy development.

Aspect also provides a wide array of flood and floodplain management services, including flood mitigation planning, modeling, design, and streamflow measurement and instrumentation.

Aspect’s Owen Reese and Tom Atkins presenting at NEBC’s Stormwater Conference on March 9th

On March 9th in Tacoma, the Northwest Environmental Business Council (NEBC) will host the 9th annual Managing Stormwater Conference in Washington. This focused one-day conference is Washington's leading stormwater event, convening regulated companies, governments, solution providers, and regulators to share solutions to the challenges of stormwater management. The conference’s educational sessions will cover both basics and advanced topics in the areas of industrial stormwater management, construction stormwater management, municipal stormwater management, and cross-cutting issues. Aspect is proud to be a premier sponsor of the conference. Aspect’s stormwater engineers Tom Atkins and Owen Reese will also be contributing to two of the educational sessions. 

Tom will present a case study in the Industrial Treatment Project Showcase Session; his presentation will highlight deployment of a customized treatment system that successfully met tight time constraints, overcame challenging site conditions, and achieved NPDES permit requirements.

Owen will moderate the cross-cutting issues session on the “Impact of Third-Party Lawsuits”. This session will discuss Clean Water Act lawsuits by outside parties as a de facto enforcement tool for stormwater permit compliance, walk through the process of a typical citizen suit,  and share what can be learned from the outcome of these cases. 

Learn more about the conference HERE.

A New Goal for Stormwater Management in Seattle

The City of Seattle has set a new goal for stormwater management in the city. Relying on “green” stormwater technology--including bioretention swales, rain gardens, stormwater cisterns, pervious pavements and green roofs--it is the City’s goal to manage 700 million gallons of stormwater annually with green stormwater infrastructure (GSI).

ell aligned with this initiative, Aspect’s core commitment to earth+water sustainability has been reflected in our staff’s position at the forefront of the green stormwater “revolution” in Seattle and across the West Sound. 

From the geotechnical design of Seattle streets, to GIS analysis of geologic areas to support GSI for the Rainwaise program, to the development of infiltration-specific soil parameters for the design and development of Theater Commons and Donnelly Gardens (recently certified by SITES), Aspect staff have been helping develop the framework for long-term regional sustainability.