This well is so important to Lacey, the city may use eminent domain to take private property

A water well in Lacey is so important the city will seek eminent domain authorization from the city council on June 4 so it can take the private property around the well.

Eminent domain is the “government power to acquire private property necessary for public use following due process of law and payment of just compensation.”

If the council authorizes that step, city attorney Dave Schneider could pursue an eminent domain petition in Thurston County Superior Court.

At issue is Well No. 7, located between Bowker and Lacey streets, an area north of Pacific Avenue and east of Saint Martin’s University. It was drilled to a depth of 480 feet and has been in operation since 1976.

It also is the city’s largest well, which produced 480 million gallons of water in 2023, or one-sixth of the city’s yearly water supply. However, the well is slowing, which means the city needs land near it to both rehabilitate the well and dig a new one.

So far, though, the city has not been able to reach a deal with the two landowners, one of whom is Ron Ryder, Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder’s father. The other owner, according to parcel owner information, is Firehouse 5608 Partners LLC.

Schneider said the properties have been appraised and the following offers were made: $346,200 for the Ryder property and $617,200 for the Firehouse land.

A Firehouse representative could not be reached, but The Olympian did hear from Ron Ryder, who declined to speak at length about the situation. He said negotiations have been cordial and that he might attend the June 4 meeting.

If negotiations have been cordial, why is the city seeking eminent domain authorization?

Schneider said there’s some urgency because the city’s public works department needs to begin design work for the new well.

“We need to know we have access to the property before we start constructing a new well,” Schneider said.

Lacey City Council was briefed on the well situation in February. During that meeting, council member Robin Vazquez asked how often the city has used eminent domain.

Schneider said only once, and even then the dispute was resolved before it worked its way through the court process.

A new well could be constructed in 18 months to two years, water resources manager Peter Brooks said, once the city acquires the property.

The city’s 20 wells produced a little more than 3 billion gallons of water in 2023.