I love our Petaluma River—its history, its potential as a 13-mile parkway through our city and the wetlands it feeds and nourishes. But lately, I have been worried we are in danger of losing this asset through neglect.
Every year we watch it silt up and every year we hope the Army Corps of Engineers will do the right thing. But even after they spent $600,000 on a dredging study in 2017, nothing has happened since 2004 and now our river is impassable to all but the smallest of craft.
Once a commercial lifeline and an ever-present source of recreation and tourism, the Petaluma River has been degraded from neglect, and it puts our city and residents at risk. Today, we are in danger of losing the quality of life a vibrant river provides while Washington wallows in dysfunction. Instead of river-dependent businesses that pay good salaries, overnight yacht stays, boat parades and river festivals, we have a silted up river that is a threat on several fronts.
In addition to the negative economic impact of delayed dredging, we are exposed to flooding. Silt limits the river channel’s ability to take water downstream and, ultimately, out to the bay. As a result, flooding will happen more often—and not just seasonally—but regularly during high tide surges. Flooding will only intensify as sea levels rise. The scientific evidence of increased flooding in coastal communities and rising tides throughout inlets and bays is no longer debatable; the debate is now how much and how soon.
With this in mind, I have launched the Mayor’s Dredge Pledge, a community-wide effort supported by 14 community organizations, the city of Petaluma, the majority of the council members and two former mayors, to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Petaluma River now. Together with Congressman Jared Huffman, we need to show Washington what a community that works together can accomplish.
Teresa Barrett is the mayor of Petaluma. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].