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San Rafael Channel Dredging

Federally authorized in 1918, the San Rafael Federal Navigation Channel runs from the San Francisco Bay into the heart of northern Marin County.

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The last full dredging of the Channel was completed by the Army Corps in 2002, and current measurements in the Channel measure navigation depths at only 20-40% of their federally authorized levels.

The San Rafael Channel is an urban waterfront and provides essential services to more than just recreational and commercial users:

  1. Critical Public Safety Operations: The San Rafael Police and Fire boats operate 3 rescue boats on the Channel, responding to more than 1,380 water incidents within the last 15 years. A key firefighting defense, the Channel's turning basin is a designated water pick up in fighting hillside fires. Shoaling of the Channel and shallow depths has currently eliminated the use of this pick up point—lengthening firefighting response times.
  2. Regional Economic Engine: The Channel-adjacent East San Rafael business district generates 66% of the City’s sales tax revenue. More than 130 businesses registered within 400 ft of the Channel, including many marine-dependent businesses, grossed $191 million in taxable sales in 2017. Should this area be adversely affected by the further shoaling of the Channel, funding of all City of San Rafael operations will be at risk.
  3. Real Flood Risk and Damage: More than 12,000 residents live within 0.5 miles of the federal Channel, including in the most densely populated FEMA floodzone in the County. Seven stormwater pump stations discharge stormwater directly into the Channel, and rely on deep waters to keep stormwater flowing into the bay. The FEMA approved Marin County Local Hazard Mitigation Plan includes Channel dredging as a high priority project.

SRCA logoThe San Rafael Channel Association (SRCA) is a non-profit group representing waterfront businesses and residents actively involved in the dredging effort. The City has been working closely with SRCA, the County, Congressman Huffman's office, and the Army Corps of Engineers to secure federal funding for Channel dredging.

Federal Appropriations Authorized in Fiscal Year 2020

DredgingIn March 2020, the San Rafael Channel was awarded $1,378,000 in federal funds for the first step in dredging: the environmental testing and preliminary design for full dredging.

Read the US Army Corps of Engineer's Project Award

Read the Marin Independent Journal article


Talia Smith, Senior Management Analyst
(415) 725-9231

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