Coffee with Congressman Huffman & Dredging the Petaluma Slough

Being a estuarine naturalist implies being an advocate/activist for the environment. And so, this morning, I drove to Petaluma to have coffee with my Congressman, Jared Huffman, (California’s Second Congressional District Representative) at Acre Coffee along with about 40 other members of the public.

He opened by talking about the projects he’s been working on in our Northern California Congressional district—the California coast from Oregon to the Golden Gate. He shared the very good news about progress that has been made towards the removal of four aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River. This is good news, though not a done deal.

Representative Huffman is doing a good job for our District overall.


Congressman Huffman also talked also about his efforts to secure federal funds to dredge the Petaluma River channel. This body of water is in reality an estuarine slough, not a river. Long ago, the slough was renamed a “river” so that federal money could be allocated to dredge it for navigation. (The feds won’t dredge a slough.)

Dredging began in 1880. In 1930 Congress authorized the Corps of Engineers to dredge every four years. Sediments removed from the channel, called “dredge spoils,” were stockpiled and recycled at Shollenberger Park, which, since 1996, is a popular city park and wildlife sanctuary.

The Petaluma Slough has not been dredged for some years. Today siltation has shallowed the channel to the point that it can no longer carry fully-loaded barges. Petaluma’s commercial tonnage has slipped. The less tonnage the slough carries, the less reason to keep it dredged.

Pet River Export

Petaluma Slough today at a 1′ Tide. That old yacht is sitting in mud.

Congressman Huffman wants to dredge the channel again soon—it before it gets so shallow that all it can carry are kayaks, canoes, and recreational boats.

According to an interpretive sign at Shollenberger Park, four private companies use the slough for shipping: Pomeroy Corp., Shamrock Materials, Jerico Products, and Dutra Materials.

A taxpayer-funded Corps of Engineers dredging project amounts to another example of corporate welfare. The beneficiaries of such a project are few: the owners of four privately held companies.

The losers would be many. Tax-paying public. Sonoma County residents who would witness a favorite park and wildlife sanctuary revert to a dredge-spoils wasteland.

Its time to allow the natural flow of water and silt to transform the “river” back into the slough it once was—a place for shore birds, marsh creatures, both vertebrates and invertebrates, and, yes, people paddling canoes and kayaks.

4 thoughts on “Coffee with Congressman Huffman & Dredging the Petaluma Slough

  1. I was happy to read about the removal of the dams on the Klamath ~ great news indeed. Good to know Rep. Huffman is doing informal public meeting and good for you to attend. Thanks for keeping us informed!

  2. Is the silting due to natural processes or a function of silt laden run off from large areas of deforestation? and subsequent farming? Was the area a slough before mankind interfered with the natural environment?

  3. Hi, Alden,

    Much of the silting is due to hydraulic mining for gold in the nineteenth century. Those guys basically washed away whole mountains using high pressure jets of water to dislodge gold. Wanton destruction, hard to imagine the mindset that allowed for that.
    Since those dark days, yes, deforestation and agribusiness has had its effects as well. But the main damage was done by gold-fevered prospectors.

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