MARTINEZ -- In what could prove to be the final bid to save the marina, city leaders plan to spend up to $1 million to clear away layers of mud clogging the entrance.
Since 2006, city leaders have spent about $674,000 in a quest to transform the marina into a first-class destination but have little to show for it. In fact, nearly four years after last dredging part of the marina, boats are sitting in mud once again at low tide.
On Wednesday, the City Council approved a $225,000 contract for another round of permitting and design work for dredging the entrance and western side of the marina this fall. Martinez will use its $1.6 million share of a regional park district bond and a $500,000 donation from Shell Oil to pay for the dredging. The total cost for the project, including the contract, is between $800,000 and $1 million.
Although the silt clogging the marina flows through gaps in the dilapidated eastern breakwater wall, the city doesn't have money to replace it. Dredging is a temporary solution to keep the marina open.
One disgruntled resident said the plan is akin to "throwing good money after bad."
But Mayor Rob Schroder said the council should try to save the marina at least one more time.
"I'm not ready to throw in the towel yet," Schroder said.
Over the past six years, Martinez has pursued several fixes for the marina -- from an ambitious $24 million makeover including new concrete docks, a restaurant and fuel station to replacing the eastern breakwater wall and dredging. But efforts to secure funding from the state Department of Boating and Waterways failed repeatedly.
Late last year, city leaders thought they were making progress toward meeting the department's conditions to qualify for $3.1 million in loans. But in November, the agency abruptly announced that it wouldn't give Martinez any more money for the marina until the city paid off nearly $4 million in outstanding loans.
Now, council members are betting that restoring the depth to 9 feet will improve the marina's cash flow. Of the 267 berths, only 156 are occupied.
In the 2010 fiscal year, the marina experienced a $30,000 shortfall due to the loss of charter fishing, according to Mitch Austin, contract recreation manager.
With a positive cash flow, private lenders may be willing to loan the city money to rebuild the marina entrance, replace the breakwater wall and make other improvements. At the very least, city leaders hope the marina will generate enough revenue to pay for another dredge in 2015.
But after years of setbacks, some residents remain skeptical. Dick Duncan disputed the notion that the marina is a regional draw and urged the council to turn the marina back over to the state.
"You people need to screw up your courage and pull the plug on this," Duncan said. "You haven't done anything to fix anything."
Larry Baird said he pays $300 a month to dock his boat at the marina, where it sits in the mud. At low tide, Baird said he can sit on the deck and look straight through the holes in the breakwater wall. Dredging will help him get his boat out of the marina, he said, "But we really gotta look at that wall." Councilwoman Lara DeLaney said she would approve the dredging project because the money isn't coming out of the general fund. But she also acknowledged that the plan is a gamble.
"I do think we have to keep asking ourselves this question, 'Is it worth the money?' " DeLaney said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.
Approved on Wednesday for more dredging
Potential cost of the entire dredging project, some coming from bonds and donations