It's on us. Share your news here.

San Rafael supplements creek dredging with $3.46M job

Posted on October 7, 2022

San Rafael approved a $3.46 million project complementing the effort to dredge San Rafael Creek for the first time in 20 years.

The City Council voted 3-0 this week to approve a contract with the Dutra Group to complete dredging of private harbors and marinas of the creek’s inner channel. The San Rafael-based marine construction firm is the same crew hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that is actively dredging the federally-controlled territory of the canal.

Mayor Kate Colin and Councilmember Eli Hill were absent from the Monday vote.

“This is certainly a long-time coming, and the City Council is excited to be able to work with our federal government colleagues to get the Canal dredged,” Vice Mayor Rachel Kertz said after the meeting.

“The last time the entire channel was dredged was 2002, so it’s fantastic that this project is moving forward after so many years of work and collaboration,” Kertz said.

The 2.5-mile creek channel is a vital artery in San Rafael, officials said. Harboring nearly 2,000 boats, the channel acts as a key part of the city’s flood control defense system, provides access for emergency responders and is home to several businesses and about 12,000 residents within a half-mile radius.

The canal was partially dredged in 2011, but after 20 years of deferred maintenance, storms carried sediment that has shoaled the channel to depths as shallow as 2 feet. Larger vessels have run aground at times.

Seven of the city’s water pump stations flow out into the channel during heavy storms, with the continued siltation limiting the city’s flood control defenses. Other concerns include the hindering of firefighters and police who might not be able to access parts of the channel during emergencies.

After years of advocacy and effort by local business owners, residents and elected officials, the project received a $6.75 million allocation this spring as part of the $1.5 trillion spending bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.

That funding supports the dredging that began last month. The Dutra Group crews are actively dredging to a depth of 8 feet in the outer channel running out to San Pablo Bay. They are working their way to the inner channel from the turning basin by Grand Avenue to Pickleweed Park to dredge to a depth of 6 feet.

The city’s approval this week is part of the umbrella permit secured by the city in partnership with private property owners along the canal.

Of the 163 private parcels along the Canal, about 100 expressed interest in the dredging, but only 29 are participating, said Stephen Acker, an analyst with the public works department.

Those who declined indicated that cost was a factor, while others were not interested, Acker said.

The city staff recommended waiving competitive bids for the dredging on private property, because the Dutra Group agreed to charge the city of San Rafael at the same rate per cubic yard of dredged material as the Army Corps. The blended rate provided was $27 to $34 per cubic yard.

In addition to the the private property, there are eight city parcels that will be dredged.

The city is fronting the cost with money from the capital improvement fund. The city is actually only paying for $649,200 worth of work. The remaining $2.8 million will be reimbursed to the city through payments split by the private property owners.

There is also a contingency contract of $346,800 in addition to the main contract.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to perform routine dredging to maintain proper channel depth every six to eight years under the River and Harbors Act.

U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, whose district includes Marin, previously said that smaller, shallow-draft harbors such as those along San Rafael Creek have largely been considered “stepchildren” in the huge portfolio of navigable waterways the Army Corps of Engineers has on its to-do list.

Huffman said he is interested in reforming how the Army Corps of Engineers handles these smaller systems and finding ways to get these dredging projects into the hands of local public-private partnerships.

Nadine Urciuoli, vice president of Helmut’s Marine Service and president of the San Rafael Channel Association, said the work is “essential for the marine businesses.”

“We’ve been waiting for this since 2002,” Urciuoli said. “We’re so thankful to the city and elected officials. We’re really looking forward to getting rid of all that mud in the canal.”

April Miller, director of public works, said the intent is to be done with the dredging by Nov. 30, when the dredging season ends. However, if work is incomplete, she said, the Dutra Group agreed to return next summer to finish work without charging an additional “mobilization fee.”


It's on us. Share your news here.
Submit Your News Today

Join Our
Click to Subscribe