We are thrilled to announce the promotion of Steve Winter, PH & PWS and Susan Dickerson-Lange, PhD, PG to principal partners.

Steve joined NSD in 2016 and is based in our Seattle office. Steve has over 20 years of experience as a hydrologist and geomorphologist concentrating on wetlands, streams, and rivers in Washington, Oregon, and California. He provides a unique combination of extensive technical expertise in wetlands, hydrology, restoration design, project management, and project permitting experience for projects in fluvial and estuarine settings.

Susan started working with NSD in our Seattle office in 2016. She is a hydrologist and licensed professional geologist with over 11 years of both research and applied experience in geomorphic and hydrogeologic investigations, watershed-scale hydrologic modeling, and spatial data processing and analysis. She has led the development of a quantitative framework for estimating the water and sediment storage benefits of stream restoration actions, and she continues to build on her dissertation research on forest management effects on snowpack and water supply to support regional climate change adaptation efforts.

In addition to Steve and Susan’s new roles, we would like to announce new Project Scientist, Laura Zanetto!

Natural Systems Design’s Bellingham office has recently hired Laura Zanetto. Laura, who relocated from the Portland, OR area, is a design and permitting professional with five years’ experience working in natural resources consulting. With a focus on restoring ecosystem function related to water resources in the Pacific Northwest, Laura provides technical work for variety of projects including design and drafting, construction oversight, wetland delineation and functional assessment, mitigation planning, and regulatory compliance.


NSD is always looking for ways to leverage our resources and expertise to support our project partners, and in 2019 this included helping Malama Huleia (https://malamahuleia.org/) tackle the largest mangrove removal project in Hawaii at the Alakoko Fishpond. Formed in 2015, Malama Huleia (https://malamahuleia.org/) is a local Hawaii nonprofit that is leading the community effort to eradicate the red mangrove and other invasive plants along the Hulē‘ia estuary and river, which includes the Alakoko Fishpond. Dedicated local volunteers have been removing the mangrove by hand, and these efforts are ongoing, but in the winter of 2019, Sara Bowman, Executive Director of Malama Huleia recruited a team of skilled machine operators from the Pacific Northwest led by Bryan Vallett to volunteer for two months. In that time, over 6.5 acres of mangrove was removed using heavy equipment and chainsaws. Their story can be seen here: https://malamahuleia.org/2019/03/22/the-machine-crew/

Alakoko fishpond on Kauai, Hawai

Alakoko fishpond on Kauai, Hawaii, with red mangrove removal underway February 2019.

The Alakoko Fishpond, also known as the Menehune Fishpond, is located on Kauai, Hawaii near Lihue, about a half-mile inland from Nawiliwili Harbor. It is the largest of six fishponds in the Nawiliwili area and has immense cultural significance.  For decades, colonization by invasive Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) has rendered the Alakoko Fishpond completely inaccessible as a cultural and ecological resource. The red mangrove has threatened the integrity of the ancient stone wall and has greatly degraded wildlife habitat in the pond.

As part of this major push to remove the mangrove, NSD contributed staff volunteer hours as well as in-kind donations for project volunteers. Megan Whiteside, an NSD environmental scientist spent two weeks clearing mangrove with the volunteer crew. NSD Principals John Soden and Tim Abbe also lent a hand.

Following the removal of the mangrove, the area will be replanted with native wetland plants. As native fish, birds, and plants return to the site, the Alakoko Fishpond can once again serve as it had for centuries- as a major cultural hub, food resource, and important place for wildlife.

Some great news from BNSF, with whom we worked on the Otter Creek Side Channel Design Project, which completed in 2016:

Praising our “efforts benefiting fish, water quality, habitat and habitat connectivity,” the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) gave BNSF its 2016 WSDOT Environmental Excellence Award. The Otter Creek Restoration Project in Lewis County, Washington, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was part of BNSF’s new track construction near Kalama, Washington. BNSF worked closely with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and various Washington state agencies to develop a habitat enhancement project on the Cowlitz River that included a complex salmon spawning and rearing habitat.

Kitsap County has won a 2017 VISION 2040 Award from the Puget Sound Regional Council for the Clear Creek Wetland and Flood Plain Restoration Project. NSD was the lead consultant on this project, providing stream and floodplain restoration designs for the 30-acre site in response to repeated flooding in downtown Silverdale, WA. This award recognizes innovative projects and programs that help ensure a sustainable future as the region grows.

Keep up with the daily happenings at Mill Pond Dam Removal on Northeastern Washington’s Sullivan Creek.

Video of the Project

Photo Gallery

Progress Gallery


The Secret Life of Rivers 2.0 Update from S Solomon Leaping Frog Films on Vimeo.

Take a journey through the unusual world that exists beneath a streambed. Called the hyporheic zone, this world of microscopic flora and fauna is vital to the health of rivers around the world. Find out why, and see the slime on streambed pebbles come to life! Meet for the first time the colorful and unknown world of the Hyporheic Zone and why it is important. -S Solomon Leaping Frog Films


Building a coffer dam was a temporary first step in the floodplain restoration and fish habitat / log jam construction project on the Lemhi River near Salmon, ID. Thanks to Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Eagle Valley Ranch for the opportunity to work in such a beautiful spot. Also, hats off to NSD’s Deb Stewart, P.E. for the video, project management and all around amazing talent!

Natural Systems Design is pleased to announce, that we will be sponsoring a 5-day design course on the design of large wood habitat in the Upper Columbia region. The workshop will incorporate current design and assessment methodology from the newly published Large Wood National Manual (Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2015) as well as recent fish and habitat response from effectiveness monitoring programs across the region. Space is limited to the 30 participants, so contact us soon if you are interested to attend.

LW Habitat Design Course

Larson's Reach Restoration. Photo by Daniel B. Nylen.

“The care of rivers is not a question of rivers, but of the human heart.” – Tanako Shozo

All of us at Natural Systems Design wish all of you a Happy Winter Solstice and bright New Year! We look forward to our paths crossing in 2016. The above photograph by Daniel B. Nylen is from Larson’s Reach Restoration, Nooksack River, sponsored by the Lummi Indian Nation Natural Resources Department.