Washington’s first public ports were established when the legislature, reacting to private railroad companies’ domination of the docks and harbors on which the state’s economy depended, authorized voters to create publicly owned and managed port districts under The Port District Act of 1911.
Port districts were given the power to levy taxes and issue bonds, to acquire property by eminent domain, to set wharf and dock rates and to lease port-owned property to private operators. On February 7, 1912, a petition was sent to Clark County commissioners requesting that a port district be formed. On April 6 of that year a vote by Clark County residents established the Port of Vancouver, with 631 in favor and 179 in opposition. This made Vancouver the third port organized after the 1911 act, following Seattle and Grays Harbor.
To commemorate the Port of Vancouver’s first 100 years, a special Centennial Website was created in 2012. The site includes an array of historical photos, more than 50 blog posts highlighting special moments in the port’s history and a fascinating timeline of major port milestones.
Today, Washington has 75 public port districts, more than any other state. The Port of Vancouver is the state’s third-largest public port, after Seattle and Tacoma, and the second-largest public port on the Columbia River, following Portland.