‘Project raises the larger issue of solidifying the riverfront vision’
The 176-foot long and 10-foot wide floating concrete structure will be more than just a place for boating enthusiasts to tie up for dinner at local restaurants or for a stroll along the promenade – eventually it may usher in a new era of river enterprise with commercial tours, water taxis, gondolas and other vessels bringing guests from the Bay Area to Napa – as well as serving as a transfer point to disembark visitors destined for local resorts.
“This project raises the larger issue of solidifying the riverfront vision and promoting economic vitality through improved boating access along the Napa River,” according to Public Works Director Jacques R. LaRochelle, in a written presentation to the Napa City Council in July.
“Coordinated efforts are under way with the Napa Flood Control & Water Conservation District to find funding sources and engage the Army Corps of Engineers for dredging the Napa River channel to a six-to-eight foot depth from Mare Island Strait in Vallejo and on to the Third Street Bridge in Napa.”
Seventy feet of this dock will be reserved for commercial operators with permits. An additional 70 feet is designated for public use, and 36 feet is allocated for a loading zone. There is also a 13-foot detachable kayak launch and a designed 100-foot section for non-motorized boats on the shore side. A 40-inch wide gangway will extend 51 feet from the shore access gate to the dock.
“Localized dredging is under way now immediately underneath and in the vicinity of the floating dock and pilings are being set in place,” said Napa Parks Superintendent David Perazzo.
“All of the in-water work will be done by Oct. 1. Policies and regulations governing the use of the dock will be presented to the Napa City Council Sept. 4 for review.”
Bellingham Marine is building the $1.5 million prefabricated dock in Dixon under the direction of West Coast Contractors, Inc. of Coos Bay, Oregon, the general contractor for the project.
“The river fills with silt over time and there is an urgent need to dredge from Kennedy Park to downtown to provide a four-foot minimum depth at low tide,” Mr. Perazzo added.
Proponents of the new dock say Napa County has much beauty that cannot be seen from the Wine Train or by road.
“There’s lots of enthusiasm for the commercial use of this facility for sightseeing vessels,” said Craig Smith with the Downtown Association. “Commercial interests are the kind of people city hall will listen to.”
Some tour operators have been mooring their vessels at Napa Valley Marina or at the Napa Valley Yacht Club’s dock downriver, and bringing guests by shuttle buses or smaller boats to town and back.
“It’s a relaxing and scenic run from Vallejo 25 miles up river to the Yacht Club that can be done in about two hours at 8.5 knots or three hours at 5 knots per hour.” said Ken Graham, commodore of the Napa Valley Yacht Club.
Dolphin Charters currently runs Osprey Cruises and Bay Nature Napa River Explorations starting from the Vallejo marina through the old Leslie/Cargill salt ponds and marshland areas being restored as part of the S.F. Bay National Wildlife refuge.
Other operators, such as Napa River Adventures, Kayak Napa Valley and Oakland Servizeo (a gondola charter firm) have shown interest in the new Napa dock.
“The Petaluma Queen sternwheeler came to Napa bringing visitors in the past. This shows that larger, shallow-draft boats can navigate up here,” said Bernhardt Krevet, president of Friends of the Napa River with 500 members.
“I’m pleased with the attitude of city planners who, I believe, will adjust the docking rules over time to allow more commercial use, however, I don’t see them adding slips or mooring floats in the future. Previously, when we had river festivals, boats had to tie up to each other offshore after the old 110-foot dock was removed in 2006 to allow for flood control work.”
He said it is good to see that whatever is done is compatible with the downtown plan and the valley as far as influencing river quality is concerned.
“Protecting our resources is good for business,” Mr. Kevet added.
As currently envisioned, the new dock will be in place year round. It will be ADA accessible and designed for day-use only (7 a.m. to 11 p.m.) with no overnight mooring. Smoking and fishing would not be allowed and motorboats would not be permitted to idle at the dock.
Permits would be required for mooring boats in excess of three hours, for using alcohol or for playing amplified music. Dogs would have to be on leash. These rules may be modified or expanded following city council review.
“Use policies will change as we determine what works and what doesn’t and see patterns develop,” said Parks and Recreation Services Director Larry Mazzuca.
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