Solano County

Feds bring Lake Berryessa decision home to Napa-Solano region

By From page A4 | December 12, 2012

NAPA — Bureau of Reclamation officials say that visitors to Lake Berryessa will find recreational opportunities there in 2013, despite the uncertainty surrounding most of the lake’s resorts.

To be certain, the opportunities won’t be as plentiful as several years ago. Then all seven resorts along the lake’s 160-mile shoreline were open and at full strength.

The bureau decided in 2006 to take a different direction with the resorts, which included tearing down all the facilities at several of them and starting from scratch. It chose Arizona-based Pensus in 2010 to renovate and operate six of the resorts.

But the agency announced last week that it has terminated the contract with Pensus, leaving the transition in flux before it hit its stride. The planned new hotels, marinas, cottages, restaurants and other features have yet to be built.

Mid-Pacific Regional Director Donald Glaser came to Napa Valley College on Tuesday to explain the decision to terminate the Pensus contract and explain what that means for the lake’s recreation future in 2013.

“For this year, it was the most important decision I had to make,” he told about 30 people during the second of three public forums on the topic.

Pensus ran five of the Lake Berryessa resorts since 2010 and  these are without water and electricity. It was to take over a sixth, Markley Cove, next year. Markley Cove still has all of its recreation facilities. A seventh resort, Pleasure Cove Marina, is run by Forever Resorts under a long-term contract and retains all of its facilities.

Lake Berryessa Park Manager Jeff Laird said that the bureau on Monday began running three of the former Pensus resorts for day use. These had the pre-Pensus names of Steele Park, Spanish Flat and Putah Creek. It will try to bring in concessionaires with interim contracts to run these three resorts in the spring and summer, he said.

Two of the former Pensus resorts, Rancho Monticello and Berryessa Marina, will remain closed for the foreseeable future, Laird said.

Visitors who don’t want the rather rugged resort experience that the three former Pensus resorts will offer have options. Markley Cove has a marina, launching, a retail store and overnight lodging. Pleasure Cove has tent and RV camping, a marina, retail store and overnight lodging, bureau officials said.

Glaser said he terminated the contract with Pensus because Pensus failed to meet the standards and timelines stipulated in the contract.

For the long-term operation of the former Pensus resorts, the bureau will put the contracts out to bid again. Glaser said this time around the agency will establish a public advisory forum, something it intended to do in 2006, but never did, he said.

“In hindsight, it would have been the best thing we could have done,” he said.

Georgi Ffinch of Pensus last week referred to a press release for the company’s comments on the contract termination. The company is still evaluating its next step, she said. It can appeal Glaser’s decision to a Department of Interior appeals office.

The press release said the bureau’s “continuing gross mismanagement of visitors services at the lake” doesn’t serve the interests of the local community and the public. It said the bureau has proven to be neither a willing or constructive partner in working with Pensus or any private entity.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Discussion | 2 comments

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  • Rick WoodDecember 12, 2012 - 3:22 pm

    It's a shame this has taken so long, but failure of a contractor to perform happens sometime. The Bureau is now on its way, finally, to get the project(s) back on track and done right. The Bureau's master plan is transformative. Fairfielder's have an interest in Lake Berryessa. Not only is it a readily accessible recreation area for our own use, it also attracts visitors from the region and beyond that patronize local businesses as they go to and fro. And that's to say nothing of the water supply the lake provides to Solano County, including the City. The new plan and control by the Bureau is a "plus" there too.

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  • JonesyDecember 12, 2012 - 8:18 pm

    The problem is that the Bureau tried to do too much at one time. They should have do this one resort at a time. This would have had less impact on the lake, the local economy and tourism (lake use). There is no argument that the quality of the water supply will improve. The fact that a couple of the resorts had problems with waste treatment & one had the waste pond over flow all the time in the rainy season...

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