The multi-faceted Dutra organization, now over a century old, provides rock for California’s vital Delta levees and aggregates for construction projects throughout the greater San Francisco Bay and Delta regions.
The San Rafael Rock Quarry, the only rock quarry on the San Francisco Bay with barging facilities, is operated by the Dutra organization and has provided essential rock for construction projects for more than 100 years. Photo courtesy The Dutra Group
By Wes Starratt, PE
Published: December, 2010
We learned from company president Bill Dutra and his daughter, Aimi Dutra-Kause, that the roots of the Dutra firm go back more than 100 years to Bill’s grandfather, Antone Dutra, who, in 1905, established a dredging and levee maintenance firm in the tiny Sacramento Delta town of Rio Vista. Today, the focal point of the Dutra organization is San Rafael. There, it maintains its corporate headquarters and operates the San Rafael Rock Quarry.
After more than 100 years in operation, the San Rafael Rock Quarry continues to provide essential rock for construction projects, from large rip-rap rock for the maintenance and repair of levees and waterfront property to crushed rock for asphalt plants and road projects. Recently, Dutra has been moving aggregate to Treasure Island and the Port of Oakland and certain areas around the bay that require breakwater revetment.
San Rafael is also the only rock quarry on the entire San Francisco Bay with barging facilities. This is an important capability, since the average barge carries up to 4,000 tons of rock, as compared with an average truckload of only 28 tons. The result is a tremendous reduction in air pollution from Dutra’s operations.
In the Sacramento Delta at Rio Vista, Dutra maintains not only a company museum (call (415) 258-6876 to schedule a tour), but also a 50-acre facility adjacent to the ship channel, with support cranes and an ample shop for service work on its barges and tugs. In Alameda, Dutra has a five-acre site with shop space and docking facilities for barge repairs and the mobilization of marine equipment for construction projects. The firm also has asphalt and paving plants in Petaluma and in Richmond.
We were fortunate to catch company president Bill Dutra in his new San Rafael office. We asked him about the present-day Dutra organization. “The Dutra organization has basically three components: Dutra Materials, which is the mining component, comprising the San Rafael Rock Quarry and our marine aggregate business, which transports rock and aggregate directly from the quarry, largely by barge, to project sites and Dutra facilities in Petaluma and in Richmond. Among Dutra Materials’ current projects are Ducks Unlimited, a habitat restoration project in the South Bay, and assorted rock-placement operations in the Delta.
“In Richmond, Dutra Materials has an asphalt plant where the emphasis is on recycling used road materials, while in Petaluma we are in the permitting stage of a new asphalt plant directly on the river. We will be bringing up to one- half of a million tons of crushed rock per year by barge from the San Rafael Rock Quarry to the Petaluma plant and a comparable amount to our Richmond facility.
“Another component of our organization is Dutra Construction, which primarily does marine-related projects such as breakwaters, jetties, and marinas. Current projects include a break-water and marina on St. Paul Island in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, where we just finished another break-water at nearby Dutch Harbor. In southern California, we are doing two joint ventures with the Griffith Co.: a 2500-slip marina called the Cabrillo Marina in San Pedro and Pier 102 for the Port of Los Angeles.
“Dutra Dredging is the third leg of the Dutra group. It does dredging work from Alaska to southern California and also in the Gulf of Mexico. One major project is a joint venture with Manson Construction that has been going on for several years at the Port of Oakland. It involves moving over five million cubic yards of dredged materials to the Hamilton Wetlands Restoration Project in Marin County, and reducing channel depths at the port to minus 52 feet. We have another dredge currently doing maintenance dredging on the channel leading to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. We also continue to do dredging in the Bay Area for oil companies like Standard Oil and Valero.
“We are also working on the Columbia River for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with our dredge Paula Lee, and have also done dredging for the Port of Los Angeles. In addition, we have a hopper dredge that is maintaining the channel for the Mobile District of the Corps of Engineers in Alabama. And we just received a similar job in Tampa, Florida, to keep its channels open.”
When asked about the organization’s fleet of tugs and barges, Bill Dutra responded, “We have approximately 30 barges—that includes a combination of rock-carrying barges and aggregate-carrying barges, as well as crane barges to put pile-driving or rock-placing equipment into position. One of our primary tugs is the Sara Lee, which we use for river pushing and aggregate movement. In addition, we have a series of about ten medium-sized tugs and workboats of various sizes. We contract our ocean towing and some of our bay work to Brusco Tug & Barge.”
In order to reduce the noise from its barge-loading operations at the quarry, Dutra has recently been installing concrete decks on its barges so that barge loading involves the softer sound of rock against concrete rather than rock against steel.
Bill Dutra noted that, “Much of our work in the Delta in terms of protecting the levees is a function of weather. So, when there is intense weather, more barges and equipment are required, and we are forced to gear up and later size down. Our barge fleet is spread out from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, but the primary rock-carrying fleet remains in the Rio Vista area.”
Bill Dutra concluded his interview for this article by emphasizing that, “The Dutra Company is proud of its barge fleet in responding to local, as well as statewide disasters, and we are also proud of protecting California’s Delta-conduit water system that feeds two-thirds of the State of California. We have an excellent team of boats, barges and especially people.
“We pride ourselves in working for the public and making our vital economy grow.”
Within hours of the June 3, 2004 levee break on Jones Tract in the Sacramento Delta, Dutra Construction was on the scene. It was estimated that repairs would take 45 days but Dutra completed the initial closure of the break in 22 days. Photo courtesy The Dutra Group
Dutra Dredging is currently doing maintenance dredging on the channel leading to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. Photo courtesy The Dutra Group