Two new docks and targeted dredging are planned next year for the Napa River in the city of Napa.
The city intends to spend $1.5 million to install a dock at Fourth Street in the heart of downtown, replacing a smaller facility that was removed in 2006 for flood improvements, said Jack LaRochelle, the city’s public works director.
Farther south, a state grant will buy a replacement 100-foot dock at the Kennedy Park boat launch.
At the same time, the city will use $400,000 in special developer fees to dredge around both docks. Currently, the Kennedy boat launch is unusable at low tide, LaRochelle said.
The boating industry and downtown businesses have been lobbying for a replacement dock at Fourth Street, at the base of the Riverfront commercial development, as a way to increase tourism. The dock would allow potentially a dozen or so small water craft tie up in downtown.
A new dock had been promised years ago earlier, but kept getting delayed due to permitting issues and city efforts to get a state grant to pay for most of it.
Now the city is biting the bullet and using $1.5 million from its general fund to install a much larger, year-round dock with handicapped access at Fourth Street.
The city will use special revenue that is not likely to reoccur for this unique project rather than divert the funds into the city’s everyday budget, City Manager Mike Parness said.
At 175 feet, the new dock will be about 50 feet longer than the old one, with the capability to tie up boats on two sides instead of just one, LaRochelle said.
The city had hope for a 225-foot dock, but this was nixed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board which wants to limit the turbidity from bank erosion that increased boat traffic would cause, LaRochelle said.
The dock will be managed like street parking in downtown, with areas for commercial and public use, with various time limits, said Dave Perazzo, the city’s parks superintendent. There will be a zone for passenger loading so there will always be a spot available for access, he said.
The City Council will be asked on Dec. 4 to appropriate the money for the dock at Fourth Street.
The downtown and Kennedy docks would go out to bid in March, with installation and dredging occurring at both locations in late summer, LaRochelle said.
This dredging is a temporary fix for a larger siltation problem in the river between the Butler Bridge/Highway 29 and Third Street in downtown, Rick Thomasser, operations manager for the Napa County Flood Control District, told district directors last week.
Dredging is a responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would normally deepen the river every seven years or so, but hasn’t done any work since the late 1990s, Thomasser said.
Dredging creates a channel at least 10 feet deep at low tide, which is adequate for most boats, LaRochelle said. Because of siltation, boats now have about half that depth to work with in places, he said.
“There are many sections on the river that are dangerous to boaters,” Bernhard Krevet of Friends of the Napa River told flood directors.
Rather than risk running aground, many boaters won’t come up river, which means that restaurants and stores lose business, directors were told.
Laurie Puzo of Friends of the Napa River said dredging and installation of a dock downtown could contribute to a return of the River Festival, an annual event on Labor Day weekend that was canceled this year.
Working with reduced fund, Army Corps is now paying for dredging only on commercial waterways, such as the Port of Oakland, while recreational rivers such as Napa are allowed to silt up, Thomasser said.
City and flood district officials are talking with private property owners about creating an assessment district that would raise $200,000 annually to pay for regular dredging north of the Butler bridge.
“It ought to be better to take it into our own hands and do it ourselves,” LaRochelle told the flood board.
He noted that Napa County voters did something similar at the Nov. 6 election when they passed Measure T, a half-cent transportation sales tax to fix local streets.
“We’re getting creative in controlling our own destiny,” Napa Mayor Jill Techel said.
Discussions of an assessment district are in the early stages, but seven organizations and businesses submitted letters of support last week.
The flood district got letters from the Sea Scouts, the Riverfront development, Napa Mill, Riverpark Marina apartments, Napa Yacht Club Marina homeowners, Napa Valley Yacht Club and Downtown Napa.
Both the flood district and the city are being asked to put up a total of $50,000 to pay for a feasibility study to determine how riverfront properties would be assessed.
The total cost of dredging from the Butler Bridge to downtown is estimated at $1.5 million, with the Army Corps able to contribute about $321,000 for environmental studies and permits, LaRochelle said.
The actual construction costs, estimated at $1.1 million, would be paid through the local assessment district.