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PORT REPORT: What’s been happening at the Port of Olympia

[Ed note: Olympia Port Commissioner EJ Zita provided this review of Port activities over 2020 with a look ahead to the coming year.]

Progress:  We ended the Port of Olympia’s fracking proppants contract; installed EV chargers at the Farmer’s Market; funded community solar and agriculture initiatives; and shared warehouse space with community groups.

The Port agreed to improve environmental practices at the Marine Terminal, as the consequence of losing a significant lawsuit.  We renewed our commitment to collaborate on sea level rise and Capitol Lake/Deschutes Estuary planning. While we declined an expansion of the Olympia Airport, we are exploring possibilities for electric and hybrid aircraft.

Members of the public can participate in online Port meetings, thanks to COVID and to good tech staff. Written public comments were included in Port minutes—(though recently they haven’t been appearing there…)  On a bigger scale, ports across Washington are showing more support for low-carbon initiatives this year—partly because they expect the Legislature to generate green funding.

Other news:  Despite concerns I presented, the Port optioned approximately 200 acres of urban forest to a warehouse developer and removed houseless campers and their belongings; approved berthing two big military ships for five years and declined Tumwater’s invitation to cooperate on a mitigation site. Unfortunately the Port raised taxes again and, within the Commission, made accusations against the minority Commissioner that took up time and proved false.  The State Auditor’s Office again issued “findings” regarding Port finances, and the Port paid millions in legal settlements and related costs.

Work to do and questions to answer

Will Commissioners approve a Tribal Honor Statement?  Many governments have adopted a tribal honor statement to acknowledge the past, present, and future of native people within their jurisdiction. The boundaries of Thurston County sit on the native lands and waters of three recognized tribal governments: Squaxin Island, Nisqually, and Chehalis Indian tribes.

Ports have the authority to install dark fiber for broadband service, and we agreed to start planning how to address this public need.  A Broadband Access Team (BAT) with the county, cities and the PUD would be a good first step.

Vision 2050 prioritizes environmental sustainability and waterfront recreation over business as usual at the Marine Terminal, yet shipping of logs and cattle continue. Will the port sell its money-losing crane?

Strategic planning for the Port, and master planning for the Airport and the Marine Terminal, are due but delayed.  When will this work proceed, and is strong public engagement a priority?

Periodic review of our process for ensuring accuracy of public records, including minutes and transcripts is an essential responsibility.  Are responses to public records requests timely and complete?

Financial measures approved by the Commission have been given a lower priority than other measures.  What is the Port’s commitment to meaningful financial performance reporting?

Opportunities for engagement

The Port of Olympia is moving forward in some hopeful ways, from sustainable energy systems to regional planning processes thanks in part to public participation.  Vigilance is still required.

The Port has adopted a set of core values that promote meaningful public participation. You can find them described and discussed here:

The Port has embarked on Waterfront development planning—that needs input from a wide spectrum of the public. Contact to get on the Waterfront Development email list.

It’s especially important to be part of the discussion of the Port’s actions and their use of resources that rely on tax subsidies. This year, you will be voting for two Port Commissioner positions, District 2 and District 3.  Candidate information is available at Thurston County Auditor’s office and the PDC.

Get on the Port News email list by contacting  Access Port meetings at  Regular Commission meetings are second and fourth Mondays at 5:30 (the public is encouraged to speak). Work Sessions are first and third Mondays at 2:30, where there is no public comment although people may attend.

You can email public comments to the Port’s Commission Coordinator.


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