What is a port, how many are there in Washington State and what does the Port of Whitman County actually do?

Ports are municipal entities that are formed by the voting constituency of a district to diversify and strengthen the economy of that district. There are 75 ports currently active across Washington State. The Port of Whitman is a county-wide port and bases its activities on Port plans, updated every five years.

The Port develops industrial real estate, operates a general aviation airport, maintains Boyer Park and Marina and manages three water ports on the Snake River and an inland industrial park. The Port also develops telecommunications infrastructure. For more about Washington ports, visit the Washington Public Ports Association.

Can you have a port without water?

Yes! 1/3 of the ports in Washington are not located on a navigable waterway. The primary purpose of a port district in Washington State is economic development – and you don't need a navigable waterway to do that. The Legislature has given ports broad authority to promote economic development. They can build and operate airports, marine terminals, marinas, railroads and industrial parks, and in some cases, promote tourism.

How does the port use my taxes?

Ports use tax revenues to invest in infrastructure designed to grow the economy. In this way, ports serve as economic engines for their communities. Examples of port investments include marine terminals, airport facilities, improved rail infrastructure, industrial parks and marinas. Ports then lease facilities or charge a fee for their use, using the new facilities to generate jobs and grow the economy.

Will the Port ever stop collecting its tax levy?

The Port tax levy is reinvested into new port infrastructure, maintenance of existing port infrastructure, telecommunication infrastructure, continuing support of the Pullman-Moscow Airport and the operation of the free, day-use areas of Boyer Park & Marina. While the Port strives to become self-supporting, this goal does not take precedence over the Port’s other goals.

Isn’t the Port of Whitman County just an arm of the Whitman County government?

No, the Port is a stand-alone municipal corporation in the State of Washington. Though Whitman County acts as the Port Treasurer, just as it does with other taxing districts like schools, hospitals, etc., the Port is autonomous from the county with its own set of Commissioners. The Port is also subject to different laws and has different authorized powers than that of Whitman County.

The Port Commissioners and County Commissioners do meet quarterly for a “Commission to Commission” meeting, which is public meeting and advertised as such. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss issues of interest to each entity.

When are the Port Commission meetings, may I attend and how may I be included on the agenda?

A calendar of regular meetings of the Port Commission can be found at www.portwhitman.com/port-calendar. The schedule can also be obtained by contacting the Port administrative office at 509-397-3791.

Occasionally a “special” meeting of the Commission is called. The date, time, location and purpose of special meetings are published in the local newspaper and posted on the Port website. The Port Commission may also meet in an emergency meeting for certain limited purposes, but such meetings are rare.

The Port of Whitman County has two methods by which the public may address the Port Commission at their meetings.

  1. If a member of the public has a short comment they wish to make regarding a particular Port project or activity, there is a brief time period at the beginning of the agenda for individuals wishing to comment to have three minutes. If there are multiple individuals who wish to speak, the same rule applies. It is recommended anyone commenting read a written version of their comment as to stay on point and best get their message heard.
  2. To be included formally on the Commission meeting agenda with up to a 15-minute opportunity to speak, please email us at least one week prior to the next regular meeting with your name, contact information, topic of discussion and goals sought from the Commission.
I have heard the Port builds fiber optic systems. Can you hook up my house?

The Port has the authority to build fiber-optic networks. The Port cannot provide telecommunication services at all, let alone directly to your home. The Port builds the fiber network and leases dark fiber to private sector companies who supply end-user services. To learn more about our telecommunications work, please visit www.portwhitman.com/broadband.

I am interested in leasing raw land at a Port site. Who do I contact?

For more information about the land or buildings the Port has available to lease, please contact us at port@portwhitman.com or 509-397-3791.

I am interested in renting a hangar or tie-down space at the Port of Whitman Business Air Center. What is available, and who do I contact?

For information on POWBAC, please contact us at port@portwhitman.com or 509-397-3791. Available Port properties for lease or sale will be posted at www.portwhitman.com/port-properties/available.

Can the Port finance a building for my company or give me money to start a business?

The Port cannot finance a building or loan or grant money to help an individual start a business. The Port can build a building for a qualified client and then lease it and the land it sits on to that client. For more information on how the Port might be able to assist your business, contact us at 509-397-3791.

The Port has an industrial park in Pullman, as well as several port sites on the river. Why isn’t the Port building an industrial park in my town?

The Port must be very selective in its development plans as it costs the government more to develop a site than the private sector. Often this increased cost makes the final lease rate of the property prohibitive in the smaller communities of Whitman County. Although the Port can be creative in the writing of leases to encourage small business to grow, the Port has a philosophy of developing only where there is the market or a proven bird-in-hand and community support to do so.

Where do I find out about small business incentives and training opportunities?

Please contact Southeastern Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA) staff at 509-751-9144 or visit SEWEDA’s website and follow the business incentives or training links.

What does the Port Commission do, and how can I run for a seat on the board?

The Port Commission sets policy for the Port and provides guidance for long-term planning. There are three Port Commissioners, one from each county district, and they serve six-year terms. Unlike the Whitman County Commissioners who are full time and salaried, Port Commissioners serve on a part-time basis and receive a meeting per diem limited by law, travel expenses and medical insurance. Should you wish to learn more about possibly running for the Port Commission, contact us at 509-397-3791.

Why does the Port run Boyer Park & Marina, and how can I contact the park for a camping reservation or boat moorage?

The Port operates Boyer Park & Marina under a long-term lease from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide recreational opportunities to the citizens of Whitman County, attract visitors to Whitman County, and to offset the lack of public access to the water at its Ports of Wilma, Almota and Central Ferry. Visit the KOA Boyer Park website or call (509) 397-3208 for information and reservations.

Can I drive over Lower Granite Dam?

Yes, but access is limited. Contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 509-843-1498 for information and procedure.

Does the Port ship containers and if not, who do I contact locally for container shipping?

The Port has no container shipping operation at any of our Snake River Ports at this time. For container shipping, please call the Port of Lewiston at 208-743-3209. For barge line information, please call Tidewater Barge Lines at 360-693-1491.