The Port of Olympia is often touted by its boosters as “the economic engine of Thurston County.” The purported economic benefits actually derive from the port’s own self-serving study, and are greatly exaggerated. Instead, the harsh reality is that the port chronically operates in the red, and that it is totally dependent upon the tax levy subsidy.
The port engages in a log exporting business that operates at a loss. To this economic injury comes the insult of having had to provide a $11.5 million waste water system to cope with the pollution created by Weyerhaeuser. Moreover, this expensive system failed in a spectacular break-down, and remains in a condition that allows the continuing log-based pollution of Budd Inlet.
Despite the failure of this costly system, the Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA) recently gave the Port of Olympia an award for it. This action was sureally absurd. So when you hear the boosters’ hype about “the economic engine of Thurston County,” think of this emblematic award for a costly, failed system, and of the Port of Olympia, in its aspirational planning, as “The Little Engine That Could (Not).” Wishful thinking may be a desirable quality in children’s books, but it is not an acceptable strategic foundation for a public agency.