Port of Kennewick History -- 100 Years of Community & Economic Development

Read about the history of economic development within Port of Kennewick's district:
History Highlights Booklet compiled March 2015 by Anchor QEA for anniversary event  
Full History Report prepared February 2015 by Anchor QEA for the port's Comp Plan
Historic Events Timeline prepared by 2015 by Anchor QEA

View video of speaker comments and history highlights from the April 14, 2015 100th Anniversary event (prepared by Mike Charboneau, Cable Communications Coordinator, City of Richland)

View the Port History Highlights Video (prepared by PS Media and premiered at April 14, 2015 anniversary event).

Representative Dan Newhouse recognized the Port of Kennewick's 100th Anniversary on the floor of the House March 23, 2015: View Video 

Created on March 6, 1915 the Port of Kennewick was situated between the “Bridges” along the Columbia River. The prestigious Kennewick Commercial Club created a five square mile port district in 1915 to take advantage of the newly constructed Celilo Canal near the Dalles, Oregon. This passageway allowed cargo vessels the opportunity to ship goods down the Columbia River to Portland, Oregon.

During the early years, the port concentrated its efforts on building rail and water transfer terminals in addition to barges and warehouse-type buildings for storage. A devastating flood in 1926 wiped out all the port docks and transfer facilities causing the port to become stagnant.

Resurrecting itself in the 1940's with the onset of World War II, the port began purchasing real estate for industrial development. It was at that time the port hired its first full time employee to manage the daily operations, and signed its first lease with Columbia Marine Shipyards for construction of river vessels.

The 1950s and 1960s brought an era of significant growth industrially and jurisdictionally. Industrially, five significant chemical plants, several large food-processing plants, a major metallurgical plant, cold-storage facilities and boating amenities were built and became operational during this period. The port district also expanded its boundaries to 485 square miles.

The port's direction shifted towards development of basic road and other services in the 1970's. It was at that time the industry's need for rail transportation and improved roadways increased.

Constructing incubator facilities and recruiting industries to the area was the main focus in the 1980's.

By the 1990s the port gained possession of the Vista Field Airport. The port worked on building more incubator facilities and creating partnerships with affiliate organizations to improve the local economy. As a result, several partnering opportunities arose with other municipalities and the Tri-Ports organization was formed tying the ports of Benton and Pasco with the Port of Kennewick.

Today, the Port of Kennewick concentrates its efforts on infrastructure and economic development in an effort to recruit entrepreneurial and diversified manufacturing operations, and encourage sustainable business and commercial development district-wide.


Public Port Districts and the Environment

HistoryLink.org essay:  Throughout much of the twentieth century, Washington state's public port districts pursued a single mission: economic development. They dredged out waterways, filled in wetlands, built infrastructure, and actively courted industries and the jobs they could bring to local communities. Smokestacks were signs of progress; unfilled wetlands were resources going to waste. Beginning in the 1970s, a series of new laws and regulations forced the ports to consider the costs as well as the benefits of unfettered growth. The transition was not an easy one, but eventually port districts began to take on leadership roles in environmental cleanup and restoration, including cleaning up properties they themselves had polluted. Today, many Ports tout their stewardship of the environment almost as much as their contributions to the economy.  Read More