Over 100 Years of Ports in Washington
Throughout the country, as settlers migrated into an area, they often chose locations near water. Washington State was no different – with its many deep harbors and navigable rivers, towns sprung up throughout the state, dependent on access to water for movement of goods and people. Some things never change!
In 1889, the new state constitution declared that the beds of navigable waters belonged to the people, and gave the Legislature power to designate which of those beds would become harbors. In 1911, after citizens lobbied for the right to control access to the waterfront, the Legislature passed the Port District Act, allowing the people to form a port district and elect commissioners to govern it.
In September of 1911, the Port of Seattle was formed, becoming the first autonomous municipal corporation in the nation to engage in port terminal operation and commerce development. The Port of Grays Harbor was formed shortly thereafter. Since then, more than 80 port districts have formed in Washington, all contributing to the state’s healthy trade economy. The timeline gives the history of Washington Port formations.
Currently, there are 75 public port districts in Washington. Large and small, east and west, Washington’s ports are active in many different areas of economic development, providing jobs and economic stimulation for their communities.