History of the Port of Port Angeles
Port Angeles is located on a natural harbor that is protected by the long sand spit of Ediz Hook curving east into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Port works to strengthen Clallam County’s economy through strategic investments in its facilities, partnering with public and private entities to reposition and revitalize key properties and identifying emerging markets and new business opportunities that create community value and facilitate new job development.
Historically, the Port has provided facilities for handling logs transported from the Olympic Peninsula to the Puget Sound, along the West Coast and for export to Pacific Rim countries. In recent years, the Port has modernized its facilities and expanded its marine terminal services to handle a mix of bulk and break-bulk cargoes.
In 1911, the Washington Legislature authorized local voters to create publicly owned and managed port districts, which could raise revenues and implement waterfront improvements. The purpose of the legislation was to ensure equal access to the state’s waterfronts, which had previously been monopolized by the railroads.
Real estate developer and prominent Port Angeles citizen Thomas Aldwell and others pushed for the formation of a port district on the waterfront of the City of Port Angeles. They recognized that the formation of a port would lead to further industrial development and economic growth.
On November 7, 1922, Clallam County voters approved creation of a port district covering all of Clallam County by a nearly two-to-one margin.
During its first several years, the Port acquired property along Port Angeles’s waterfront. Part of this waterfront was made up of tidal flats not suitable for development, and it was necessary to fill them with dredged mud from the harbor before they could be developed.
Voters meanwhile approved the Port’s waterfront development plans and accompanying bond issuance in a June 1925 election. The following March, the Port contracted with Owens Brothers of Port Angeles for its first big project, the construction of a 550-foot by 150-foot pier at the edge of Cedar Street and Port Angeles Harbor. The job was finished in 1927 and today the site is known as Terminal 1, or T-1.
In 1971, the pier at Terminal 1 was extended and today is 1,100 feet long with remote dolphins, the longest of the port’s terminals. It can berth ships up to 1,000 feet long, and has facilities for servicing ships requiring major repairs. The Port also operates four other terminals, all built after 1950, known as Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 7. T-2 is currently leased to Blackball Transport which uses it as the Port Angeles terminus for the MV Coho ferry that offers service between Port Angeles and Victoria, British Columbia. T-3 is the Port’s primary cargo loading terminal. T-4 is currently leased to Arrow Marine Services. T-7 is designated as a lay berth facility.
The Port built a small boat basin in 1931 with a pile bulkhead, a small dock, and three floats, providing moorage for about 50 boats. But this small basin was not fully protected from the elements, and winter storms routinely damaged boats moored there. Maintenance and operation costs were also prohibitive, partly because the Port did not charge moorage fees.
A bigger, more developed basin was needed, and construction of the Port Angeles Boat Haven began late in 1946. Upon completion this marina, located west of T-1, was capable of mooring more than 200 boats. The Boat Haven was expanded in 1958 and renovated in 2006.
It now boasts moorage for 410 boats, including several boat houses. The Port Angeles Boat Yard next to the Boat Haven is a convenient location for local businesses that provide a wide variety of marine services, such as welding, hydraulic services, and fiberglass repair.
By the 1960s, the Port saw the need for another marina east of Port Angeles, preferably located in or near the City of Sequim. Proposals to build a marina located near the Dungeness Spit met with stiff opposition from environmentalists, but in 1975 actor John Wayne (1907-1979) offered to donate 23 acres of land at Pitship Point on Sequim Bay, approximately 18 miles east of Port Angeles. The offer came with two conditions: that the land be developed as a public marina, and that construction begin by 1980.
Construction did not begin by 1980, but the Wayne family did not hold the Port to this condition. Instead there were years of planning and wrangling between the Port and Clallam County officials over the size and scope of the marina.
Finally in 1983, the Corps of Engineers issued a permit to build the $6 million marina, and work began that autumn. The John Wayne Marina was dedicated on September 14, 1985. It has 300 permanent slips ranging in length from 28 feet to 50 feet, and an additional 22 guest slips for transients.
Port Angeles’s airport first opened in 1937 and served both as a civilian airport and a military airport before the Port assumed ownership in 1951. Previously known as the Clallam County Municipal Landing Field, the airport was renamed William R. Fairchild International Airport in 1969 in honor of the airport’s first supervisor.
In the late 1970s, the Port expanded the airport, completing a new main runway in 1979 and building a passenger terminal in 1980. At the same time, the Port began development of the Airport Industrial Park, located on 110 acres next to the main runway, for light industrial use. It has two runways measuring 6,350 and 3,250 feet.
During the 1970s, the Port began development of another airport located in Sekiu, Washington west of Port Angeles. This airport was dedicated on September 10, 1977. Although much smaller than Fairchild International, it offers a 2,100-foot lighted runway and is a convenient location to fly into for those who are looking to explore the more remote northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Port’s Economic Impact
In 2012, the Port and its tenants generated a total of 2,069 direct jobs and approximately $213.1 million in direct business revenues from sales of goods and services. The operations at the Port’s industrial properties directly impact 524 jobs with revenue of nearly $63 million, while operations at the port’s marine terminals directly impact 924 jobs with revenue of more than $86.9 million. Taken together, these two operations account for 70% of total jobs and revenues generated by the port.
Historically, the Port leased much of its land to local businesses for handling and processing wood products. By 1950, the Port owned approximately 70 acres of industrial land that it leased to businesses such as Peninsula Plywood Corporation, Goodyear Nelson Company (manufacturers of fir and cedar lumber), and Port Tie and Lumber Company.
In recent years the Port’s tenant base has expanded, and today the Port has more than 60 tenants offering a wide range of services such as topside repair, composite manufacturing, aviation components, commercial diving, and restaurants. Moreover, the Port partners with public and private entities to develop additional property and identify other opportunities to create job growth in Clallam County.