Mike Thompson asks for new agency to oversee Lake Berryessa

Bureau of Reclamation didn’t do the job, congressman says
2014-03-08T14:00:00Z 2014-03-12T11:59:48Z Mike Thompson asks for new agency to oversee Lake BerryessaPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
March 08, 2014 2:00 pm  • 

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.”

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(8) Comments

  1. Michael Haley
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    Michael Haley - March 08, 2014 5:01 pm
    Kudos to both Thompson and Dillon for making this effort. They have received criticism for what has happened at the Lake in the past but this shows they are doing something about it and being responsive to citizens concerns.
  2. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - March 08, 2014 8:21 pm
    You can sure tell it's an election year. Thompson and Dillion could have cared less about Berryessa for the past 5 or more years, but now that it's election time they are going to do something. Really? They will make a lot of noise before the election and once the election is over you won't hear from them. Now that Ms. Dillon has a challenger she's scrambling for votes. The people of Berryessa should not fall for this attempt to appear that she cares about the lake.
  3. Landshark
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    Landshark - March 09, 2014 7:59 am
    "BUREAU OF RECLAMATION DIDN'T DO THE JOB, CONGRESSMAN SAID". one would have to agree with that statement and follow up with, neither did the other elected representatives.
    The ill conceived planning of the VSP & ROD, was the result of the BOR, Mr. Thompson & local Sierra Club representives all of which refused to listen to the stakeholders (Consessionaires & Permittee's). Over a decade has passed since the devastation began and the results are discusting a d shameful.
    Responsible planning could have made incremental and measurable improvements year by year at each of the existing resorts providing watersport recreation for all.
    Mr. Thompson, will anyone, anyone be held responsible for the $350M of damage, the lost jobs, lost tax revenue and hardships created by the BOR, that ejected over 1500 families? ACCOUNTABILTY is what a person with honor holds in high regards.
    There is no question that improvement was necessary at the various resorts, however the handling was criminal.
  4. glenroy
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    glenroy - March 09, 2014 8:13 am
    You got OTN..
    There were numerous land owners, lake users and various groups with interest around the lake who met and or spoke with the Regional BOR and BLM managers, both consistently stated their decisions were driven by local Supervisor request, that would be existing and previous managers. Over the years 'neither' were willing to lift a finger to return a call to desperate lake residents…entire families were financially ruined….so it’s now the BOR’s fault for finally figuring it out?
    ….there is nasty alliance among here including the UC System, UCD & staff, SC, Land Trust, QRWP and now the Snow Mountain Wilderness alliance….these are extraordinarily politically aggressive and vindictive government and semi government agencies that never give a straight answer….laws mean nothing.
    Without a thought they intentionally destroy, what took family businesses decades to build, the most popular recreation lake within 200 miles..now a ghost lake…they cost this county tens of millions...
  5. glenroy
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    glenroy - March 09, 2014 9:19 am
    Well done LS doing the math always cuts to the heart the liberal scam... but I’m thinking big fat chance on Accountability.....
    I haven't spoken with the BOR area manager since UCX stole the Wragg Ridge land owners easements which didn't warrant a return call either …..it was that time BOR was starting to realize he'd been sucker punched and hung out to dry…by a bunch of lying distorting collaborative signees…didn't hate to tell him 'we told you so.' There is no other reason to get rid of him…he did exactly as he was told and now he doesn't want to play their fool....my take at this point.
    This, today, is about taking what is already owned by the public and finding ways to charge for uses, revenue for more liberalism!…it has nothing to do with sustainability…liberalism isn't even sustainable (Watts, Harlem, East Oak)....a ponzi nothing more.

    There is no Honor among those who are pushing this agenda.......none!
  6. BlueRidge
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    BlueRidge - March 09, 2014 10:41 am
    The Bureau of Reclamation is a water agency. Other than operating the dam, which would continue under Congressman Thompson's bill, their job in Napa is done.

    Management of Lake Berryessa is now about recreation. We need an agency that has that capability, and whose budget priorities are more consistent with that function.

    According to Reclamation's website, 83% of their recreation areas are managed by some other agency. 102 Reclamation recreation areas have been transferred to another federal agency. BLM is one of them.

    I hope Napa County will do what ever it can to support the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce in calling for a transfer of management and Mike Thompson's bill in responding to that call.
  7. carefreewanderer
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    carefreewanderer - March 09, 2014 5:48 pm
    Spot on Old Time Napa............. Maybe people need to vote them out and start with someone fresh
  8. Laurel Star
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    Laurel Star - March 09, 2014 8:20 pm
    OK, how about a civics lesson folks. The Dept of Interior is an agency within the federal govt. Some of the sub agencies within the this agency INCLUDE the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Other agencies in the Dept of the Interior include the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (To name a few.) All federal agencies, including the BOR and BLM have the SAME requirements for land management contracts for concession operations. The BOR was negligent in enforcing the requirements of concession contracts for years, that's the only reason the "resorts" were allowed to get so out of hand, i.e unregulated. There is no difference between the BOR and the BLM in terms of the federal requirements for concession operations. The BLM will require the SAME amount of time, expense, studies and permits to operate the concessions as the BOR. In fact, the BLM has LESS experience operating recreation than the BOR. Obvious stuff!
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