Yousef Baig, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Petaluma River, a tidal waterway that has seen boat traffic decline as silt piled up, will be dredged this year for the first time since 2003, rejuvenating a natural resource that for generations was the lifeblood of the community.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be allocating roughly $9.7 million this year to pay for the project, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, announced Monday. An additional $1.3 million was set aside for preliminary work to eventually dredge the San Rafael Canal.
The Army Corps is supposed to maintain the 18-mile river every four years but has fallen way behind on that commitment.
“I’m just very happy for the people of Petaluma,” Huffman, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Commitee, said in an interview. “They’ve waited a long time.”
With the money now in place, the dredging work could begin as early as June 1 depending on the migration of protected species like steelhead trout that naturally spawn in the watershed, said Jason Beatty, director of Petaluma Public Works and Utilities.
The city council last month approved nearly $2 million for an emergency dredge of the river turning basin and Petaluma Marina in case the Army Corps again passed on doing the work. With the project now covered, the city will use that money on the marina, where the number of vessels leasing space is now less than 40% of capacity, or about half the Bay Area average, Beatty said.
Members of the local boating community were elated by Monday’s news. Leland Fishman, commodore of the Petaluma Yacht Club, said the project could start a “rebirth of our river.”