U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, has introduced legislation that would wrest control of managing recreation at Lake Berryessa from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and give it to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Thompson introduced the bill Thursday, and in a news release blamed Reclamation’s management for the steep drops in tourism at the lake in recent years.
The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 264 million acres of public land in the U.S., is better equipped to manage recreation, Thompson said. The agency “has extensive experience managing outdoor activities on public lands — including camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, wildlife viewing, and more,” he said in the news release.
Reclamation had turned over management of five of the seven resorts at the lake to an Arizona-based company, the Pensus Group, but it failed to redevelop them. The contract between Reclamation and Pensus was terminated in December 2012, and the agency has been in an extensive planning effort to line up a new contractor since then.
One of the resorts has a permanent operator, but four of the seven resorts remain open at the lake under interim contractors. Three of the locations provide limited services such as camping, day use and boat launching. The other two locations are closed.
“The management status quo at Lake Berryessa needs to change,” Thompson said in the statement. “Lake Berryessa is an important part of our county and we’ve waited too long for BOR to effectively execute its redevelopment plan. New management is needed, and a redevelopment plan that works for the lake, families and businesses needs to be implemented.”
A spokeswoman in Reclamation’s public affairs office declined to discuss the bill, citing agency policy on not commenting on pending legislation until it’s taken an official position.
Thompson’s bill would allow Reclamation to continue to administer Monticello Dam and its facilities. The agency manages the reservoir in conjunction with the Solano County Water Agency.
Transferring management of recreation to the Bureau of Land Management has long been a call of frustrated residents of Lake Berryessa. That had culminated most recently in the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce’s no-confidence vote in Reclamation’s management this year.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to receive an update from Reclamation on progress it’s made to bring in a new contractor on Tuesday. Supervisor Diane Dillon is supporting Thompson’s bill, she said in the news release.
“Transferring the management of Lake Berryessa from BOR to BLM is the right thing to do for the lake,” Dillon said. “I thank Congressman Thompson for introducing this legislation and look forward to working with him to make sure the management transition is both quick and smooth.”