The fate of the contractor in charge of redeveloping six of the seven resorts at Lake Berryessa is now in the hands of a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official in Sacramento.
Following a 45-day mediation period that ended last month, Reclamation failed to reach an agreement with its contractor, the Arizona-based Pensus Group, Reclamation Area Manager Mike Finnegan said Tuesday.
That means Reclamation’s director for the Mid-Pacific Region, Don Glaser, will now decide whether to pursue terminating Pensus’ contract, potentially leading to Reclamation taking over operation of the resorts, or the federal agency starting over in its process for finding a new contractor. Glaser could also choose to continue or modify the contract.
Finnegan couldn’t put a deadline on when Glaser would make his decision, but said he expects it soon.
“It is a priority,” Finnegan said. “I know Don is working on that. He is taking it very seriously.”
Finnegan said the bureau’s visitor services plan, which serves as the foundation for its long-term plans for recreation at the lake, remains in effect.
Finnegan spoke before the board of directors for the Napa Berryessa Resort Improvement District, which provides water and sewer for Berryessa Highlands, a community on the south side of the lake. The county Board of Supervisors serves as the district’s board of directors.
Terminating the Pensus contract would mean hitting the reset button on a three-year process already fraught with problems. The bureau originally selected Pensus after a bidding process in 2009, but had to throw the results out after federal lawyers determined it was legally flawed.
Following a second round of bidding, the bureau again selected Pensus as its contractor in April 2010, and the company signed a 30-year contract to operate the Lupine Shores, Foothill Pines, Blue Oaks, Manzanita Canyon, and Chaparral Cove resorts. It was slated to take over the Markley Cove resort in 2013 and rename it Mahogany Bay.
But Finnegan has said that Pensus fell behind in the redevelopment projects while they were still in the planning stages last summer and fall before stopping work completely. Reclamation issued a notice of possible termination of Pensus’ contract earlier this year, which lead to the mediation this summer.
Finnegan said two of the five resorts Pensus operates are open now — Lupine Shores and Chaparral Cove — and as of the end of August, the lake had drawn an estimated 400,000 visitors during the recreation season. That put it slightly ahead of last year’s total, although well off historic peaks of more than 2 million visitors annually.
“It’s not where we want to be and it’s not where the community wants to be,” Finnegan said. “But things are open.”
He said work is underway to improve trail systems at the lake, with the ultimate goal of completing a trail network from the visitor center, on the southwest side of the lake, to Eticuera Creek on the north side.
“We’ve got a fairly robust trail system under way,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan told the directors and members of the district’s transition committee that he would like to give them more details about the mediation process and the failure to reach an agreement, but was bound by a confidentiality agreement.
Members of the transition committee, who live near the Lupine Shores resort, questioned Finnegan on the plans to remove the resort’s boat ramp and road, which were installed by the previous contractor.
The ramp is one of the primary draws to the resort, transition committee member Stu Williams said, but is set to be demolished this February due to an agreement between the bureau and the resort’s old contractor.
“If you close the ramp at Lupine Shores there’s nothing else to do there,” said Larry Finkel, another transition committee member.
Finnegan said the bureau had contingency plans in place, but couldn’t elaborate until a decision is reached on the Pensus contract.
“We still have options on that,” Finnegan said. “That is not something that’s off to the side and not being discussed.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Finnegan announced he was retiring as area manager after more than 40 years of working for Reclamation. Supervisor Diane Dillon said she hoped that his replacement would keep lines of communication open with the district and Napa County.
“We need to hear it from the bureau’s end, Mike,” Dillon said. “It’s not personal.”
Finnegan said that he believes the bureau has been accountable for its performance, the recent tumult at the lake notwithstanding.
“It’s obviously been a long road,” Finnegan said. “At the end of the day, whether it was a hard decision or an easy decision, we stood up and held ourselves accountable.”