The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will hold a series of meetings next month devoted to the future of public recreation at Lake Berryessa, and may divulge details about the status of its embattled contractor, the Pensus Group, which is in charge of five of the lake’s seven resorts.

On Dec. 10, Don Glaser, the director of the bureau’s mid-Pacific region, which includes California, will be at the Berryessa Senior Center from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss his decision on the Pensus contract. He’ll repeat his public presentation on Dec. 11 at the same hours at Napa Valley College’s Little Theater, then on Dec. 12 in Winters.

The bureau has moved to terminate Pensus’ management contract due to the company’s failure to complete redevelopment of the resorts, which the Arizona-based company pledged to do when it signed the contract in 2010.

The bureau has alleged that after completing some preliminary planning, Pensus stopped working on the resorts, leading it to pursue contract termination earlier this year.

The bureau and Pensus went through mediation over the summer, but failed to reach an agreement. Glaser must decide to continue the contract, end it, or modify it so Pensus would retain control of some, but not all, of its resorts.

Bureau spokesman Louis Moore said the meetings could feature an announcement of Glaser’s decision, but only if he’s notified Pensus representatives beforehand. Moore wasn’t sure Monday if Glaser had made his decision.

“The primary point for the meeting is for Mr. Glaser to discuss with the audience about how he’s arrived at his decision,” Moore said. “If he’s already spoken to Pensus, then he’s able to share more information with his audience.”

Moore said Glaser has reviewed the contract and input from staff carefully, and wants to ensure that his decision will be technically and legally defensible.

“He just wants to do it as correctly and as easily as possible,” Moore said.

Moore said the bureau hopes the meetings will result in a “definite, positive step for looking at the future.”

“That requires feedback,” he said.

But patience is wearing thin for some business owners at the lake who rely on a steady stream of tourists to stay afloat financially.

If the bureau moves to terminate Pensus’ contract, it could lead to more delays in opening the resorts to the public and fewer tourists at the lake. That could devastate some business owners already struggling to survive, said Marcia Ritz, who owns the Spanish Flat Country Store & Deli.

Ritz, a member of the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce for five years, said she’s seen the chamber’s ranks dwindle as businesses shuttered due to the delays and the lake’s economy souring.

“We’re just barely holding on,” Ritz said Monday. “There’s no people coming through right now. Everybody up here — we all need help.”

Ritz said that people go to the resorts, see the lack of running water, outhouses, and inadequate or nonexistent facilities, and come to her store to complain before promising to never come back. She said she’s owned the store for five years, and has seen her business do progressively worse each year.

“Those people that go to the resorts, they come down to the store and just complain,” Ritz said. “They say they’ll never be back. Something has to happen. They have to do something to bring people back. I want something to happen so that we can have a breath of fresh air. If it continues like this, nobody’s going to be able to survive up here.”

Ritz expressed frustration at the bureau’s tight lips on what will happen with the Pensus contract. During mediation, representatives cited a confidentiality requirement when they declined to divulge details. Ritz said there’s not much business owners can do, aside from speaking up and hope the bureau listens.

“All we can do is wait,” Ritz said. “We are certainly hoping for the best. Hopefully they’ll give some information on the tenth.”

Jean Howell, owner of the Capell Valley Boat & RV Storage and a member of the lake’s Chamber of Commerce, echoed Ritz’s frustration.

“They’ve had meetings, and they’ve had meetings, and they’ve had meetings,” Howell said. “All they’ve done is talk.”

Howell said the Bureau of Reclamation should cede control of the lake’s recreation to the Bureau of Land Management, which she said is better prepared to manage recreational activities.

“I don’t think we’re going to get anything settled until we get someone in there who’s knowledgeable about resorts,” Howell said.

Howell was born and raised at the lake, and said she’s owned her business since 1989. She said she’s been doing OK, but acknowledged that her business has been off in recent years.

“It’s going to be a long time coming back,” Howell said.

(6) comments


After two decades of planning, seven years of continued failure to provide a recreational “destination” one can only expect more rhetoric from the BOR leadership. When will there be accountability for the devastation, collateral damage, failure of due diligence & possible malfeasance by an incompetent government agency?
The parties within the BOR that are responsible have retired, received promotions and now Mr. Glazer is being transferred to Denver for special projects. One suggestion would be to transfer the entire agency to Afghanistan to provide “more recreational opportunities”.

The BOR failures are truly unacceptable by any standard.


I still fail to understand. how this has gotten so out of hand. In my business, if we make a contract and then do not fulfill that contract, or even move in the direction needed to fulfill that contract, it becomes null and void. Then my client takes his project to another vendor. Why does our government not run on basic rules of business?


Berryessa is a man made lake and is perfect for power boats and water sports. Wouldn't you rather kayak in some pristine wilderness somewhere?


I wonder what the County costs were to respond to drunken motorists/boaters and Lake visitors? Whenever I've visited Berryessa to go kayaking in the past, the beach is filled with rowdy teens and twenty something adults mostly from Fairfield/Vacaville. They packed their food and beer (purchased in Solano County), and made store runs at Berryessa for the small stuff, like when their cigarettes dropped in the lake etc., or when they underestimated the amount of beer they were planning to drink.

For the most part, Berryessa Lake is an expense to Napa County that mostly benefits Solano County.

Nevertheless, I think it could still be profitable to local businesses if Pensus would get their act together and draw a higher quality (less tax burdening) group of people to Berryessa. Perhaps they bit off more than they could chew. If so, perhaps the objective should be to develop a few of the resorts for now. Start the marketing process for next summer.


Edna...the BLM land is around the BOR which manages the resorts.
The fact is they, BOR and Co, destroyed well managed resorts that has cost our county millions in revenue, and since the closure millions in lost wages...for what a few dollars kicked back? Same thing happened with the military base closings....corruption at the federal level has never been this bad in our nations history.
The local BOR is hopelessly without leadership, while the BLM periodically has a quality manager passing through…both kow tow to UCD on this matter, UCD was and remains the driving force behind this unnecessary ruin….
If it had been business decision, based on revenue and lake users… never would have happened…that lake was a gold mine for the fed, state and local agencies…now it’s a drain.


Why doesn't BLM take over the whole area. Some resorts won't let you go down to the lake, on their property "to fish " unless you have a boat. And of course we have to pay to launch the boat. No fishing on the shore. Who paid for the dam in the first place? Of course there should be a usage fee but their restrictions are over the top disgusting.
American Canyon resident and fisherwoman

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