On November 8, 1966, the Port of Othello, encompassing 182 square miles in Adams County, is voted into existence. Earlier in 1966, a joint countywide port district was envisioned that would encompass both the main cities in Adams County: Othello and Ritzville. After the Ritzville Chamber of Commerce voted to delay a decision on a port to "continue to study possible benefits" in April 1966, Othello decides to push forward with its own port district effort ("Othello Plans"). The Othello Port District ballot issue passes by a narrow margin.The Port will go on to own and operate the Bruce Industrial Water System, the Othello Airport, three industrial-warehouse sites, and an as-yet-undeveloped (in 2010) business park. It is also known as Adams County Port District No. 1.
Othello, a town of about 6,734 people as of 2009, is in the middle of the irrigated farmland region of the panhandle of Adams County, in the western part of the county.
In the 1960s, many Washington cities and towns -- including many, like Othello, not situated on a body of water -- became interested in the idea of creating a port district to spur industrial growth and economic development. The Port of Othello's original mission was to purchase land and develop agricultural warehouses to serve the district's booming farm economy. The district now (2010) has numerous such sites and has three more for sale or lease four miles east of Othello.
The Port owns and operates the Bruce Industrial Water System, located within the 125-acre Bruce Industrial complex four miles east of Othello. In 1994, the Port completed a $600,000 improvement to the industrial site that added a well and elevated water storage.
The Bruce Industrial Water System is a modern water system that provides drinkable water but is used mainly for industrial purposes. It serves a number of agricultural packing sheds, and is used for rinsing potatoes, asparagus, and other foods.
According to Port director Mike Beardsley, the water can also be used for cooling purposes and "that's where we're headed in the future" (Beardsley interview).
The Bruce system's elevated storage tank holds 200,000 gallons and the system has 263 million gallons of water available annually. About 12 million gallons are currently being pumped each year.
The Port of Othello also owns and operates the Othello Municipal Airport. It is a 110-acre, unmanned single-runway airport. It serves as base for private planes and crop-duster operations. It has a lighted 3,564 ft. runway and space for private hangars.
As part of a Layout Plan Update Project funded by the FAA and WSDOT-Aviation Division, in 2010, the Port began the process of acquiring land to construct a new, longer runway. In order to meet FAA standards, the runway will be relocated to combat visual impairment. Completion is scheduled for 2017.
In 2007, the Port purchased 65 acres for a business park just south of Othello on Highway 26. This is currently undeveloped land but, according to director Beardsley, will be an important component of the growth of the Port of Othello and the entire Othello economic area over the next several decades.
The Port, according to its website, expects both industrial development and population to grow. The Port wants to be a vital part of "orderly, systematic growth including conservation of natural and critical resources while providing a safe and sustainable environment for future generations" (Port website).