PETALUMA (KPIX) – For the first time in years, boats will soon be able to travel freely again down the Petaluma River.

Traditionally, Petaluma has been known by its nickname “River Town” but, by the state of affairs here over the last few years, it might as well have been called Mudville.

Once a vibrant waterway, Petaluma River is now silted in, full of mud. At low tide in the upper reaches near downtown, it’s so shallow that the geese walk.

Lt. Colonel John Cunningham says the river hasn’t had a full cleaninb by the Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 20 years.

“We’re just excited to get the work done and work begins and it’s great to have the funding and the support of the community and we want to get it done,” Cunningham said.

The dredge looks like any other dredge but, when you listen, you don’t hear it.

“It is an electric dredge,” says Pacific Maritime Group CEO Grant Westmorland. “We plug into the city and it’s great for the city because not only is it zero emissions, it’s quiet.”

Being so quiet allows it to operate 24 / 7. The contractor, Pacific Maritime, has 89 days to complete the job. It’s estimated they will remove 191,000 cubic yards of mud and debris. On past projects, they’ve found other stuff too.

“We’ve found things like motorcycles, cars, shopping carts, you name it. Stuff you’d think wouldn’t belong in a river shows up,” says Westmorland.

Friday is final systems check, safety reviews and connecting the mud debris pipeline. Congressman Jarred Huffman helped secure the federal funding.

“After 20 years, we are finally dredging the Petaluma River back to life,” Huffman said.

The project should be completed in three weeks when, after years, boats can once again travel the river. Outdoor restaurants all along the river bank are looking forward to new traffic, too.

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