Claiming the Waterfront

Initial Surveys & Dredging Projects
The federal government did the first surveys of the Bellingham Bay waterfront in the 1890s, assessing the prospect of deep-water docks to house the ever-increasing ship traffic to the tiny town. Dredging of several areas by the Army Corps of Engineers created docking opportunities, inspiring businesses to grow and permitting ease of public transportation. Overland routes were slow and often dangerous.

Economic Development
By the 1920s, numerous large mills and canneries dotted the shoreline, and long docks had been built to accommodate their needs for transport of materials and personnel. To prevent the railroads from gouging prices and controlling use of the waterfront, local businessmen successfully pushed for the creation of a local Port Authority.

In the years that followed, the port created boat harbors and docks for industries like Georgia Pacific and Intalco Aluminum in Ferndale. Canning and shipping cargo became a major part of the economy.

Current Port Operations
As the port grew, so did the towns around its properties. With citizen-elected commissioners and an ongoing mission for local economic development, the Port of Bellingham now oversees terminals and harbors in Bellingham and Blaine, as well as a growing Bellingham International Airport and a soon-to-be rejuvenated, formerly industrial, dynamic downtown waterfront.

Port Mission
The Port of Bellingham’s mission is to fulfill the essential transportation and economic development needs of the region while providing leadership in maintaining Greater Whatcom’s overall economic vitality through the development of comprehensive facilities, programs, and services.

In so doing, the port pledges to work cooperatively with other entities within the framework of community standards and to be a responsible trustee of our publicly owned assets.

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