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Join the Mayor’s ‘Dredge Pledge’ for a healthy river

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One of the things I love about Petaluma is our river. Until recently, it has been an important source of commerce and recreation, as it has been throughout our city’s history. I’m afraid we are in danger of losing this resource permanently.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been responsible for regularly dredging the Petaluma River to make it navigable. Dredging is central to the life of the river — and the city — because it removes the build-up of silt and ensures that barges and boats can make their way to Petaluma and water can make its way to the bay.

Since 2004, however, the federal government has neglected this responsibility, and barges can no longer depend upon the river for consistent passage. River dependent businesses have left Petaluma and recreational sailors avoid our town. They are no longer willing to take the chance of running aground and damaging their boats — even though they tell me they would love to come back.

Both the commercial and recreational river traffic have provided tremendous economic vitality to our community through good paying jobs and tourism dollars that are now gone.

I am concerned about the exposure we have to flooding if indeed the channel itself fails to take the water downstream and ultimately out to the bay. Not only will water not be able to get out of our downtown basin, but it will more easily surge in at high tide.  This will only intensify as we begin to experience sea level rise.

This is not a problem that money alone will solve. In 2017, the Corps invested $600,000 in partnership with the City of Petaluma conducting a hydrological survey and sediment testing. The expectation at that time was that following the study dredging would take place in the next cycle. Instead, because of dysfunction in Washington, nothing happened.

We need to change that.

Our Congressman, Jared Huffman, has been a good partner seeking multiple paths to achieve federal dollars and federal cooperation to deal with this matter. Congressman Huffman and I continue to partner along with City Manager Peggy Flynn on strategies to achieve a dredging program for our community.

In an effort to assist us in making all Congressional representatives as well as the Army Corps of Engineers aware of the importance of dredging to our community I am launching a petition for everyone in Petaluma and those who use and love our river to tell the Army Corps of Engineers: Dredge our river now!

I am asking everyone in Petaluma to sign on to the Mayor’s Dredge Pledge. We will be collecting signatures online, on Facebook, on Instagram, on NextDoor, as well as paper petition sheets at various businesses, and community events throughout our city. Share this petition with everyone you know.

We need thousands of signatures in support of getting our river dredged and restoring our river as the heart of our town. Equally important, we want to protect our city against the inevitable sea level rise and the ravages of floods in the winter.

Let’s all come together and show that dysfunctional Washington bureaucracy what a unified community that works together looks like.

We will be heard when we are able to show our strength. Let’s be part of the solution to get our river dredged!

Here is the link to the petition: http://bit.ly/2XyJkkU or you can go to www.Care2.com and browse for “Dredge Pledge.”

(Teresa Barrett is the mayor of Petaluma.)

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