Where’s the love, Army Corps?
Dear Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Todd — can we call you Todd? We need to talk. You haven’t been returning our calls and texts, our emails and letters, or our 3,700-signature petition.
We’re not sure what happened. Was it something we said? We used to have so much fun together.
Every four years you would show up in Petaluma and lavish us with attention. You would dredge our river, keeping the mighty commercial channel clear of silt and debris and allowing millions of tons of cargo to be taken off of our roads and shipped by barge to San Francisco Bay.
Because of our loving relationship, we were the envy of all of our friends in the neighborhood. Yachters from all over the Bay Area would sail up our river and dock at our ports, spending money at Petaluma businesses.
You even used your strength to protect us. The flood control project you built on the Petaluma River has kept us safe during torrential rain fall that used to inundate us.
But we haven’t heard from you since 2003, and it seems like — as the kids would say — you’ve been ghosting us. You don’t even have a correct photo of the Petaluma River on the project page of your website.
We’re not going to lie, we’ve been feeling depressed lately. Since you’ve missed our last four dredging cycles, our river has become nearly impassable with silt islands emerging in places. Our commercial shipping industry has nearly ground to a halt, and boaters no longer come here to frolic on our shores.
And we’re again feeling vulnerable as those flood walls and channels that you built for us won’t be able to shelter us from a flood if there are clogs downriver.
Look, we’ve tried on multiple occasions to get your attention. We’ve created a human chain across the river at low tide. We’ve written countless opinion pieces in the local newspaper. We’ve even sent our best friend, Congressman Jared Huffman, to try and talk some sense into you. But nothing seems to work.
So, here’s the deal. We can’t keep our lives on hold waiting for you, getting our hopes up each year only to be disappointed yet again that we have been left out of your annual budget. We know we can be a bit high-maintenance — what was once a $2 million dredging project has risen to $10 million, but only due to your neglect.
What we’re saying is, it’s time for us to move on. We’re working out a plan to go it alone and be self-sufficient. Since we can’t continue to rely on you to dredge our river, we’ll take care of it ourselves.
But before we strike out on our own, we’d love to see you in person one last time. We’ve got too much history together to break up through a letter.
Speaking of history, do you remember that time in 1959 when you first laid eyes on us from across the room? You walked right over to us and called our tidal slough the “Petaluma River,” an official designation that made us eligible for federal funding. We felt like the luckiest municipality in the world.
Ah, those were the days. Let’s see if we can rekindle that lost magic one more time before we go our separate ways.
Sometime next year meet us at the Turning Basin. We can get drinks at Taps.
Oh, and bring your dredging machine.
The City of Petaluma