To save money, the city of Olympia is expected to transfer ownership of McAllister Spring, its former drinking water source, to the Nisqually Tribe.
The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to declare four city-owned parcels totaling 177 acres at McAllister Springs as surplus, which means the properties are no longer needed.
McAllister Springs, located in eastern Thurston County off Old Pacific Highway, supplied Olympia’s drinking water for nearly 65 years. In 2015, the city officially switched to nearby McAllister Wellfield, which provides more capacity and better protection of the water source.
A main reason for the surplus declaration is that the Department of Health prohibits the city from using McAllister Springs as a source of drinking water. City facilities on the land have sat dormant since closing two years ago.
However, the city still pays between $25,000 and $30,000 a year for taxes, insurance, fire protection and site maintenance at McAllister Springs, said Rich Hoey, public works director. Repairing or replacing the aging facilities could cost $145,000, and all costs are shouldered by ratepayers, he said.
The city will retain a small piece of land — about 4 acres — to access and maintain the water supply line for the wellfield. The city is also interested in keeping access to the site for environmental-education purposes, such as for school groups.
The Nisqually Tribe, which was represented at Tuesday’s council meeting, has expressed interest in taking over ownership and responsibility for the surplus land. The council will conduct a public hearing 7 p.m. Jan. 24 regarding transfer of ownership.
Known to the tribe as Medicine Springs, the land has held a spiritual significance for hundreds of years in the Nisqually River basin.
In 2008, the tribe and city entered into an agreement to protect McAllister Springs and develop the wellfield that eventually became the new source of drinking water for nearly 70,000 people in and around Olympia.