The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced last week that it received funding to start planning for two dredging projects at Sonoma County’s commercial ports at Bodega Bay and the Petaluma River. Dredging is necessary to keep commercial and recreational vessels from getting stuck in the waterways and grinding traffic to a halt.

On the Petaluma River, the dredging project is long overdue. The Corps of Engineers normally dredges the river every four years but hasn’t had the funding to do it since 2003. Yachts have become stuck in the low river. Barges that ply the waterway with millions of dollars of building materials are less than full.

Getting money to start planning for the dredging project is a good first step and a sign that the full $6 million to fund the work is not far behind, officials say. The project could be completed as soon as next fall, which will coincide with two other transportation projects in the area and transform the river. By next fall, two bridges over the Petaluma River, the Highway 101 bridge and the Haystack Bridge that carries rail traffic, will be replaced. Both will have wider footprints, meaning the river where the two bridges cross will be wider. A widened river combined with a deeper dredged river could be a boon for cargo and recreation traffic on the river.