Once again, the quest to find companies to rebuild and operate five of the seven Lake Berryessa resorts on federal land has come up short.
The Bureau of Reclamation announced Friday that it received three bids from California companies. But the agency deemed each bid failed to comply with at least one of the bid requirements concerning price, quality and other topics.
Each of the three bids was for one resort only – Berryessa Point, Monticello Shores and Steele Canyon recreation areas. No one bid on Spanish Flat and Putah Canyon recreation areas.
Stakes are high for the eastern Napa County reservoir with a 165-mile shoreline. The resorts attract people to the lake and boost the local economy. In recent years, two of the five resorts have operated at full strength with marinas, three have operated in stripped-down versions and two have been closed.
Lake Berryessa resident Craig Morton is uncertain when the Bureau of Reclamation’s vision of five redeveloped resorts will come true.
“It’s getting harder and harder to tell,” he said on Friday. “I think they need to listen to the local people more, rather than their people back East.”
He noted that several years ago, the Bureau of Reclamation removed some of the boat launch ramps and other infrastructure at the resorts in preparation for redevelopment.
“They’ve got to put more money in the game,” Morton said. “That means replacing the ramps they destroyed.”
Lake Berryessa resident Peter Kilkus has observed the resort redevelopment drama over the years. He didn’t find the latest turn of events encouraging.
“A total, utter disaster,” Kilkus said.
The Bureau of Reclamation could reissue its call for bids for all five resorts. Other options are to issue the prospectus for only certain resorts, change the required scope and duration for future contracts in the next prospectus or take another approach, an agency press release said.
The community will have a voice. The Bureau of Reclamation will hold a meeting on the Lake Berryessa resort situation at 5 p.m. March 2 at the Lake Berryessa Senior Center, 4380 Spanish Flat Loop Road.
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One thing the agency isn’t considering is revising its 2006 master plan to redevelop the lake resorts. To do so would cause further delays, the press release said.
The Bureau of Reclamation began publicly talking about Lake Berryessa resort renovations about 15 years ago. In 2006, Bureau officials adopted a plan with the stated goal of making the lake’s public land more accessible to short-term visitors.
Berryessa resorts at the time had about 1,300 trailers and mobile homes where people stayed for part of the year, as well as marinas and other uses. The Bureau of Reclamation’s plan called for removing the trailers and emphasizing cabins, camp sites, lodges and RV sites.
Most of the long-time resort concessionaire contracts expired in 2009. The Bureau that year began wiping clean several of the resort sites using $4.4 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money so the renovation effort could begin virtually from scratch.
In 2010, the Bureau of Reclamation chose Arizona-based Pensus to renovate and operate six resorts. But in 2012, it announced it had terminated the Pensus contract before the company had built the planned marinas, lodges cottages and restaurants.
That led to a new search for resort operators that was supposed to culminate with awarding contracts in either late 2015 or early 2016. The timetable will now be extended.
Annual visitation to Lake Berryessa has dropped amid the long transition. The Bureau of Reclamation estimated about 1.5 million people visited when all seven resorts were at full strength, compared to 408,000 in 2014.
But there will still be places for visitors to go in 2016. The Bureau of Reclamation operates Oak Shores, Smittle Creek and Eticuera day use areas and Capell Cove boat launch.
Markley Cove and Pleasure Cove resorts will offer marinas, boat launching, boat rentals and other services. Putah Canyon and Spanish Flat recreation areas under interim contracts will offer camping and other uses.
Morton noted the massive lake is still over half full, despite California’s drought. Other California lakes such as New Melones east of Stockton have much lower water levels.
Earlier this month, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, reintroduced legislation in Congress to transfer management of Lake Berryessa recreation from the Bureau of Reclamation to the Bureau of Land Management. He called the Bureau of Land Management “the right agency” for the job.
The Bureau of Reclamation press release said it will continue managing Lake Berryessa recreation unless and until legislation passes directing it to the contrary.