Town ponder removal of World War II-era structure

The old concrete cistern hasn’t been utilized for 25 years.

Coupeville officials are considering the demolition of an unused structure that has been referred to as a liability by the Department of Health.

During a town council meeting last week, Jessica Larson of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, presented the organization’s proposal to build a parking lot near the Admiralty Inlet Preserve.

The land the lot would be located on is currently property of the town of Coupeville, but the organization and the town are in the process of negotiating a property swap that would give Coupeville a five-acre wooded parcel off Northwest Broadway Street in exchange for the land near Admiralty Inlet Preserve.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s proposed 10-car gravel parking lot on Engle Road is near an existing trailhead is located.

It is also the site of an old concrete cistern that hasn’t been utilized for 25 years.

Coupeville Utility Superintendent Joe Grogan said the water reservoir has not been inspected since the 1990s, when it was last used.

The town stopped using it because the ceiling was failing and the concrete was cracking.

The cistern was originally used during World War II to pressurize Fort Casey’s water system.

“It’s inevitable that it’s going to fail at some point and collapse,” Grogan said.

With a new parking lot that might be nearby, Mayor Molly Hughes and the town council expressed concerns about people climbing up on the cistern and it caving in.

It is believed to be about 15 feet below ground and 15 feet above ground.

Estimated demolition costs of the structure range from $142,527 to $167,015. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust has agreed to partner with the town and help fund some of the cost.

Hughes acknowledged that while there may be other higher priority projects in town than decommissioning the old reservoir, she said the town might never again have a partner that is willing to contribute funding and staff to the project.

Most of the council agreed.

As a result, the project is going out to bid.

“Having a trail next door to it, we’re going to have to deal with it one way or another, sooner or later,” Hughes said.