By Don Ford

PETALUMA (KPIX 5) — The Petaluma River in the North Bay is so clogged with muck that, on Friday, local officials were doing their best to convince the feds to do something about it.

Winding through downtown Petaluma, the river has basically turned itself into a giant mud hole. The mayor has invited some important folks to tour the river, hoping to get some help to change that.

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The river is in need of dredging. Mayor Teresa Bennett says it been more than 20 years since the last time the Army Corps of Engineers performed a full dredge. Along the shore on a grounded dock, Bennett presented a petition urging the Corps to prioritize cleaning the channel.

With more than a hundred supporters cheering, the mayor pointed out the river is so choked with sand, silt and mud that it is unusable.

“We have actually seen businesses leave town because they can no longer navigate the river,” explained Bennett.

Lieutenant Colonel John Cunningham is the new commander of the San Francisco Army Corps of Engineers. Congressman Jared Huffman rode with Colonel Cunningham in a specialized boat to see the what is left of the river.

All along the shore, around every corner more supporters waved signs, shouting encouragement. Docks once busy with commerce, now empty. Boats stuck in the mud.

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Congressman Huffman was hopeful, but cautious.

“I’ve been through this before. This is the 4th Commanding Officer I’ve seen. The Corps rotates them every two years, so we have to, each time a new one shows up, we’ve got to orient them, make sure they know what a priority this is,” said Huffman.

Cunningham says the Corps has the Petaluma River on the list but, he too is cautious about promises.

“We have submitted it as part of our complete budget package for F.Y. 21 budget and it will compete nationally with all the rest of the operations, maintenance and navigation projects,” said Cunningham.

Meanwhile, the mud continues to pile up.

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Petaluma’s mayor says once the river is finally dredged, renewed activity could bring in over a million dollars a year for the local economy.