A Walk Around The Diverse Projects At The Port Of Olympia

port of olympia
Business is booming at the marine terminal, meaning new jobs in our community


By Amy Rowley

port of olympia
Business is booming at the marine terminal, meaning new jobs in our community

The Port of Olympia’s strategic plan includes more than simply goals to increase efficiency or improve operations – issues typically found in large organization’s long-term plans.  In addition to being an efficient operation, the Port of Olympia is focusing on connecting better with its citizenry.

Ed Galligan, Executive Director of the Port of Olympia, sat down with ThurstonTalk to discuss the Port’s current projects.  Beyond the marine terminal, the Port also operates the Olympia Regional Airport and Swantown Marina and manages a diverse set of real estate holdings.

“Ports are unique, quasi-government entities that are run like a business.  It’s not an easy message to understand at times,” says Galligan as we begin our conversation.  “While the Port takes seriously its accountability and transparency to the public in all that we do, we have stressed the importance of interacting with the public through a range of informative, interesting and fun programs.”

The Port of Olympia, one of more than 70 ports in Washington State, is educating Thurston County residents on how the entity uses property tax income to facilitate private industry jobs and clean up legacy pollution.

Creating commerce on the marine terminal is a constant focus.  Watch for Port administrative offices to move off-site in the future to free up additional space for transporting cargo.

swantown marina
Swantown Marina, a certified “leadership” clean marina, includes areas for community picnicking.

Beyond watching the next mammoth ship land in Olympia, learn more about the other strategic projects that the Port is embarking on over the next few months.

East Bay Clean-Up and Development

When the Port embarks on a new project, the goal is to clean-up the environment.  For example, the Port has partnered with the Salmon Recovery Board and the City of Olympia to restore Mission Creek.

“Everything we do has a clean-up component to it or some benefit to the environment,” adds Galligan.  “Some of the legacy pollution dates back more than 90 years.”

Mission Creek, which flows through the East Bay neighborhood, was previously dammed.  The Port is removing the dam, cleaning out old garbage and restoring a salmon run.

In addition to the clean-up efforts, the Port is active in redeveloping East Bay, a vibrant section of downtown Olympia.  Galligan was not shy about expressing his excitement over negotiations with a Seattle developer over a parcel of land across from the new Hands On Children’s Museum.  “This piece of property is a cornerstone to leverage further development in the East Bay district,” he says.  Thurston County residents can expect to hear more news on this project in the coming months.

Swantown Marina Fueling Station

According to Galligan, Swantown Marina is the seventh largest marina in the state.  Both the boat yard and marina have been re-certified as “5-Star Leadership Clean.”  The award is bestowed by an independent organization which includes environmental organizations, state agencies, and trade groups.  To read more about the prestigious award recognizing pollution prevention and clean boating practices, click here.

port of olympia
The Port of Olympia offers free marine terminal tours to all schools in Thurston County.

The Port of Olympia is continuing to assess the merits and feasibility of adding a fueling facility at Swantown.  In Washington State, 32 public ports and cities operate marinas, of which 20 have fuel docks on their property.

Touring the Port of Olympia

Approximately 2,000 students from around Thurston County have toured the Port of Olympia.  The Port has covered transportation costs so districts in outlying areas can afford to bring kids to the seaport.  When a ship is in town, it’s not uncommon to see four or five school buses at the Port.

Galligan explains that kids are playing with the big machines and learning about the operations of the seaport.  The Longshore Union and Weyerhaeuser often let kids participate and watch freight move around the marine terminal.

Moving Interesting Cargo

According to Galligan, the Port of Olympia has a competitive advantage over larger ports such as Tacoma and Seattle.  “Our facilities include a warehouse 100 feet from the ship and a rail loop that can bring a train directly next to a ship,” notes Galligan.

He explains that Longshore workers may unload a ship’s cargo directly onto a train which can pull straight out of the port.  This efficiency is critical to the shippers.

port of olympia
Community members walk and run the Port Peninsula trail year-round.

The Port of Olympia specializes in handling unique cargo, rather than containers.  “Our Longshore workers are the best in the West Coast.  They are specialists in handling odd shaped cargo, rather than just picking up a big steel box,” says Galligan.

International commerce is happening at the Port of Olympia.  Ceramic proppant is arriving from China and headed by train to North Dakota.  A barge service will begin traveling from Olympia through international waters to a private terminal in Anchorage.  Windmill blades passed through Olympia.

To learn more about the Port’s operations and connection with the community, swing by the Boatswap and Chowder Challenge on May 18.  The Port is revitalizing this popular community event.

The event will be held at Swantown Marina between 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.  The chowder contest will feature twelve local restaurants vying for the people’s choice award of “Best Chowder.”

More details about these projects as well as public meetings can be found on the Port’s website.


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