By Don Ford

PETALUMA (KPIX 5) — For the first time in 17 years, the Petaluma River will be dredged.

Silt and mud is chocking commercial docks that once allowed barges to load rock and gravel. Some barges have been grounded for years and recreational boat traffic disappeared, too.

The mud in the Petaluma River that will be dredged starting this summer (CBS)

Due to the river’s lack of maintenance for almost two decades, since 2003, it has been left essentially economically dead. But the Petaluma Corps of Engineers says that’s going to change with the new dredging operation.

Mayor Teresa Barrett says people are excited to hear the mud is going away.

“I just took my walk this morning and I was stopped by probably 20 people who just shouted out, ‘Yeah! So glad we’re getting dredged.’ So, everybody is very excited,” Barrett said.

The project will cost $9.7 million and is expected to start this summer. It will reconnect Petaluma to the San Francisco bay.

Local businessman Leland Fishman says it will be a big boost to the city.

“The boating community, which calls us on a daily basis, ‘Can we come up?’ and we have to tell them, ‘I wouldn’t!’ We now can put the ‘Open for Business’ sign up and that’s what we intend to do!” Fishman said.

Wilmar Fire Assistant Chief Kelly Bradley says the dredging has other benefits too. “Around this area, it’ll alleviate the flooding, or should help with some of the flooding when we get the heavy rains,” Bradley said.

Congressman Jarred Huffman was the point person in Washington for the community. The dredging has been described as “shovel ready.”

“It’ll be quick! It’s just a matter of mobilizing and getting this thing done. The permitting and the permissions are all in place so, we’re talking weeks and perhaps maybe a month or two at the most,” said Huffman.