Aspect Tours the Entiat National Fish Hatchery

It’s early August in central Washington. Three blocks from Aspect’s Wenatchee office, the Columbia River rolls downstream on its way to the Pacific Ocean. Beneath the surface, adult Chinook salmon swim upstream, returning from the sea to the rivers where they were born. Some of these fish are destined for the Entiat River and may eventually find themselves climbing the ladder to the Entiat National Fish Hatchery (ENFH).

Although all salmon hatcheries share a similar goal of producing fish, they each have unique characteristics that influence the way in which they operate. Aspect’s Wenatchee team is visiting ENFH today to learn about the specific challenges that Craig Chisam and Jason Reeves of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) face at their facility, and what they have done to solve them. Meeting with the operators directly, seeing systems in action, and asking questions helps Aspect build a collective understanding for problem solving that can be applied to help other hatchery facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest.

This isn’t the first time Aspect has been to ENFH. In 2014, hydrogeologists Joe Morrice and Tim Flynn performed an assessment of the hatchery’s existing water supplies and rights, and the condition of water-source infrastructure. Their recommendations for improving the hatchery’s access to a reliable supply of cold, clean water are being pursued by the USFWS. More water for the tanks and raceways means better rearing conditions for the 400,000 juvenile Chinook ENFH releases each year.

Following the tour, the group makes a stop along the Entiat to look for adult salmon moving upstream. Engineers Nick Szot and Ryan Brownlee, both avid fishermen, point at pools that hold fish and talk strategy. Some early morning soon, they will return to the river with rods and tackle. With some luck, they may head home with a fish that Craig and Jason helped raise.

Aspect Wenatchee in the News

Wanting to learn more about our growing North Central Washington team, the Wenatchee World profiled Aspect's Wenatchee staff. 

Water, earth, science: Elements combine for Aspect's success

by Mike Irwin | April 25, 2016

WENATCHEE — The 9-foot-deep dry well at curbside overflowed with water after every hard rain. Runoff backed up, flooded the street, blocked driveways and pooled in yards. Homeowners resorted to sandbagging during the steadiest downpours.

“The water is supposed to drain into the hole and slowly seep into the surrounding soil,” said Bill Sullivan, senior hydrologist and team leader for the Wenatchee office of Aspect Consulting, a soil-and-water consulting firm. “Our job is to figure out why that’s not happening.”

Finding a solution to the slow-draining dry well on Harris Court in northwest Wenatchee is just one practical example of Aspect’s expanding reach into the earth-and-water issues faced by North Central Washington homeowners, farmers and businesses.

From investigating water rights to developing public well systems to evaluating fire-damaged properties to helping improve water flow in Leavenworth’s Icicle Creek, Aspect has grown its client list to include municipalities, government agencies, private industries and homeowners — anyone who faces a water-soil problem solved by science and engineering.

“Real people, real problems,” said Taylor Dayton, one of the company’s water resources engineers in Wenatchee. “That’s what attracted me to this job — being out in the field at the site of the problem, helping people figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.”

Founded on Bainbridge Island in 2001, Aspect Consulting now has 70 employees at five office locations around the state. For the most part, Aspect focuses in four key areas: water resources, environmental services, geotechnical engineering and data mapping services.

In Wenatchee, Aspect employs three scientists and four engineers to tackle scores of projects every year from the Canadian border to the Yakima River basin. Sullivan opened the Wenatchee office in 2008 with fellow water resources engineer Ryan Brownlee, and they’ve seen the staff grow with their project list.

“It may seem obvious,” said Sullivan, “but we’ve grown because we do good work and have won a fair share of the market.” He said Aspect staffers approach jobs — some controversial due to environmental issues — “in an objective manner with no agenda. We like to think that for many people and agencies, we’ve become a trusted adviser.”

Plus, Sullivan said, hydrologists and geotechnical engineers find NCW fascinating place to work. “We’re at an intersection of natural resources,” he said, “where mountains, rivers, desert and varied geology all come together. The problems that arise can be challenging — that’s for sure — but that’s also what makes them interesting.”

Recent projects have addressed slope instability, structure foundations, retaining walls, bridge replacements, water storage and “banking” for future use, fixing broken water meters, monitoring aquifers, habitat restoration, the effects of drought on irrigation and fish habitat and a wide array of services concerning water rights.

On that last topic, “we try to help our clients figure out if water is physically available, then if it’s legally available,” said Bracken Capen, an Aspect civil engineer in Wenatchee.

“At the end of the day,” said Sullivan, “we’re problem solvers. Science is part of our job. Engineering is part of it. Communicating in straight-forward language is a big part of it, too. The solutions we find have to make sense to the people we work for.”

As for that slow-draining dry well in northwest Wenatchee? “It’s pretty much what you could expect,” said Sullivan. “The changing urban watershed draining into this dry well can produce build-up at the bottom and silting in lateral drains. For right now, the easy solution is to rehab the well, which means cleaning it out to make it better.”