Soon after I was elected to the Martinez City Council in 1996 I began working with my fellow council members on long-term solutions to the rebuilding and enhancement of the Martinez Marina and waterfront.

Every year for the last 11 years I have reported on the marina's progress and our immediate improvement plans during my annual State of the City address. Unfortunately, each and every year those plans that I report on are not achieved.

Year after year we continue to struggle to pull the Martinez Marina out of the mud and siltation that is constantly deposited in our harbor.

We have made some incremental progress over the years with the removal of the old decrepit ferry pier, installation of two new launch ramps and the construction of the plaza and sheet pile in front of and adjacent to the harbormaster's office.

But year after year our efforts to work with the state Department of Boating and Waterways (DBAW) and the private investment sector continually comes up short.

The root of the problem is twofold. The first is that the Martinez Marina was built in 1960 and needs to be replaced, just like any wooden structure that has been sitting in salty water for more than 50 years.

The other major problem is the fact that the city has a debt to the state on the deteriorating marina of $4.1 million. This is like having an old fully depreciated vehicle that needs thousands of dollars of repairs and has a bank loan that will takes years to pay off.


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Why do we have such a large debt on a marina that is near the end of its useful life? Hasn't the city kept up with its financial obligations to DBAW? Has this important city asset been mismanaged?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but there are answers. In short, the Martinez Marina has been in financial stress with huge maintenance costs since it was first under construction in the 1960s.

It has never been self-sustaining -- let alone made a profit -- from its operations, and for more than 50 years, previous city councils have struggled with finding solutions to the sustainability of the Martinez Marina and waterfront.

Today, the Martinez Marina has reached a crossroads: it must be closed, severely reduced in its scope, or revitalized with the infusion of substantial sums of money accompanied by DBAW's forgiving or restructuring of the suffocating debt that has prevented the marina from becoming self-sustaining.

In 1964 the city, the state Lands Commission and the Department of Parks & Recreation Division of Small Craft Harbors, entered into a memo of understanding (MOU) to create a city-state committee that was charged with overseeing the development, maintenance and leasing of the Martinez Marina.

This collaborative decision-making body has not met for decades, and our relationship with the state has become one of lender and debtor, not partners working toward the financial and community success of the Martinez waterfront.

To that end, representatives of the city, including the city manager, Councilman Mike Menesini, and myself, recently met with state Sen. Lois Wolk and the district director for Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, Tomi Van de Brooke, in Sacramento in an effort to bring all the interested parties together to find solutions for the future of a successful Martinez Marina.

Both Sen. Wolk and Assemblywoman Bonilla's office acknowledged the urgency of the conditions at the marina and agreed to spearhead these efforts and help us facilitate solutions.

To date, we have received commitments from the state Department of Finance, the Department of Boating and Waterways, the Office of the Attorney General and the State Lands Commission to come together and start the conversation about the Martinez Marina and waterfront.

There are no guarantees, but I am hopeful and optimistic that we can work together to find the long-term solutions for success.

Time is our enemy and everyday means more siltation and deterioration. This could be our last chance to find and institute the rebirth of the Martinez Marina and waterfront as we know it.

As this process moves forward, I will continue to report on important developments as they happen.

Rob Schroder is the mayor of Martinez. Email him at columns@bayareanewsgroup.com.