Washington Port Districts


In 1911, the citizens lobbied for the right to control their waterfronts against the power of the railroads, and the Legislature passed the Port District Act. This allowed the people to form local port districts and elect commissioners to govern them. Since then, Port districts have fostered local economic health by enabling communities to acquire and manage resources that promote trade and commerce.

The Washington system of publically controlled independent port districts is unique in the United States. The mission of all Washington ports by state mandate is to improve their districts by appropriately promoting economic and community development. Local control of the port district by an elected board of commissioners allows meeting this directive in a way best suited to the citizens of their district.

Port’s authority has broadened over the years to include engaging in;

  • Acquisition, improvement and leasing of land and property for industrial and commercial purposes
  • Improvement of waterfront, transit and waterways within the district
  • Economic development programs to include promotion of tourism
  • Establishment of local improvement districts
  • Operation of marine, air, land and rail terminals
  • Establishment of parks and recreation facilities

(See RCW 53 for further information)

There are currently 75 ports in the state, and the 12 ports in Kitsap are the most of any county. One third of Washington’s ports have no navigable water and are devoted to operating airports, railroads, and/or industrial and business properties. Ports receive income through taxes, service fees, bonds, and grants or gifts.