Canal dredging needs to be on a reliable schedule

English

Dredging of the San Rafael Canal, an important commercial and recreational waterway, should be routine maintenance, regularly scheduled by the city and the Army Corp of Engineers.

Over the years, however, the regularity of the job’s scheduling has required a lot of political cajoling, typically involving citizens complaining about the diminishing depth of the Canal, lobbying for help from City Hall and our representative in Congress and then persuading the Army Corps to budget for the work, which should be routine.

We’re seeing that process in the works again as residents have asked City Hall to make the work a top priority for 2018.

“We certainly need it,” Mayor Gary Phillips said. “Boats are starting to bottom out.”

One resident estimated the canal’s average depth in some areas is now only two feet. It should be six. As maintenance dredging is delayed, the waterway’s depth continues to diminish.

The work could cost as much as $8 million.

The county Board of Supervisors recently added the dredging to its legislative plan for 2018.

That’s not a guarantee that it will happen, but it lets county lobbyists and Rep. Jared Huffman know that it is a top-priority goal.

As in some years before, silt has built up on the bottom of the canal to a level where boats are having trouble navigating up and down the creek.

There are many homes and apartments for which the active waterway is an important value. Many marine-oriented businesses line the canal and, in recent years, it has turned into a favorite spot for stand-up paddleboarders.

The last complete dredging of the canal took place in 2001. Another round of maintenance dredging was started in 2011, but stopped when the project ran into suspected contaminated soil.

Huffman, as a member of House Committee on Water Resources and the Environment, is in a strong position to push for funding of local dredging projects.

There has also been some discussion about creating a local taxing district to help generate matching funds that could help attract federal funds. It should be remembered, however, that many creekside property owners already pay for dredging a route from their docks to dredging waterway.

Perhaps funds could also be found to come up with plan to reduce siltation. Or to determine whether dredging the waterway with greater regular frequency could reduce the cost.

At least having the city and corp come to a long-term agreement on regular dredging, the taxpaying public could depend on a reasonable maintenance schedule rather than fear, over and over, the canal will grow into a mud pit.

Source: 
marinij
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