Lake Berryessa enters the 2019 recreation season full to the brim, but still without any deal in place to renovate five of seven shoreline resorts with new marinas, lodges, cabins, glamping sites and other amenities.
Napa County and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for almost three years have explored having the county oversee the Bureau’s stalled resort redevelopment effort along the federally owned shore. The parties are still negotiating.
In October, county officials said a management agreement between the two parties could in place in early 2019. Then, at some point this year, request for proposals could be planned for concessionaires to redevelop Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores, two of five resorts slated to be rebuilt.
Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said on Friday that the county is close to having potential management agreement terms to bring to the Napa County Board of Supervisors for further direction. That could happen as soon as May 7.
This won’t necessarily be a make-or-break moment for the county’s possible future involvement in resort renovations, she said. There’s room for further discussion with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR).
Whether things will move quickly enough so the county can start planning this year for Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores redevelopment remains to be seen.
“I’m not going to say it’s impossible,” Rattigan said. “It depends on the terms and decisions the Board and BOR make. And what BOR is willing to put into the management and partnering aspects of it, what resources.”
Peter Kilkus, a Berryessa Highlands resident, Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce member and editor of the Lake Berryessa News, has watched the BOR’s redevelopment efforts since they began a decade ago.
“This is the same update we get every six months,” Kilkus said on Friday. “I need to see some action. I’m a positive person. I’m cautiously optimistic on the whole thing.”
He said he is pleased that the Board of Supervisors has been supportive and patient in pursuing the matter over the past two years.
The stakes are high for Lake Berryessa and its economy. The BOR has estimated visitation at the lake has fallen from about 1.5 million people annually to 500,000 since five of the resorts were leveled for redevelopment a decade ago.
Napa County has much to weigh before taking over what has proven to be a difficult resort redevelopment effort. The question is whether the county, being less burdened with federal requirements, can succeed finding suitable concessionaires where the BOR has failed.
“The risks are liability,” Rattigan said. “The risks are costs and the market not supporting concession development at Lake Berreyssa.”
An economic report given to the Board of Supervisors in October concluded hotel taxes, sale taxes, payments en lieu of property taxes and concession fees could bring in several million annually to county coffers. Money could go to such expenses as resort oversight and providing increased law enforcement at the lake.
Breaking even seemed to be enough for supervisors.
“This isn’t about doing it for net revenues,” Supervisor Diane Dillon said during the Oct. 16 Board of Supervisors meeting after hearing the report. “This is about doing it for net benefits for the greater community.”
Meanwhile, Lake Berryessa still has recreational opportunities to offer visitors. Markley Cove and Pleasure Cove resorts are operating at full strength and each has marinas. Spanish Flat, Steele Canyon and Putah Canyon recreation areas offer day use, tent and RV camping and boat launches.
In addition, the BOR runs day use areas at Oak Shores, Eticuera Creek, Smittle Creek and Olive Orchard, as well as the Capell Cove boat launch. It runs a visitor center at 5520 Knoxville Road. Summer operating hours began on April 1.
Lake Berryessa in eastern Napa County holds 1.6-acre million feet of water, about 50 times the amount in the county’s Lake Hennessey. The reservoir is 26 miles long and three miles wide, with a snaking shoreline of 165 miles.