Napa County could approve an agreement on Tuesday to take over the long-stalled effort to renovate three Lake Berryessa resorts with marinas, lodges and other amenities.
The county for more than three years has sought a management agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Negotiations are finished and the Board of Supervisors is ready to vote on the 137-page result.
County staff recommends approval. If that happens, the county will seek concessionaires to bring about a resort revival that the Bureau of Reclamation has been unable to achieve over about a decade.
“This is it,” Board of Supervisors Chair Diane Dillon said in a phone interview on Friday. “It’s finally happening. We’re very excited.”
The agreement allows the county as of November to manage Spanish Flat, Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores. The county at an unspecified future date might take over management of Berryessa Point and Putah Canyon.
The Bureau of Reclamation razed all five resorts about 10 year ago to be rebuilt from scratch. This summer, Spanish Flat, Steele Canyon and Putah Canyon will continue to be operated in stripped-down fashion with such features as campgrounds under interim concessionaire contracts.
Markley Cove and Pleasure Cove were never razed and are operated by concessionaires under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. The county might or might not take over management of those resorts in 2030, depending on various factors.
If the county cannot find concessionaires, it can opt out of the agreement, a county report said.
Dillon sees reason why the county can find concessionaires to redevelop and run resorts on the federally owned shoreline, even though the Bureau of Reclamation couldn’t. The federal agency has structures and policies designed for dealing with 50 states, she said.
“At a local level, dealing with a particular location, not a vast, unspecified location, we have the ability to be more nimble,” Dillon said.
For example, the county asked for and received a 55-year agreement. Dillon called this a key.
The Bureau of Reclamation when searching for concessionaires offered 30-year contracts. Critics said this didn’t provide enough time for concessionaires rebuilding resorts from scratch to recoup infrastructure investments.
Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan on Friday said the county wants to identify or be close to identifying concessionaires for Spanish Flat, Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores before the management agreement begins in November.
Peter Kilkus, a Berryessa Highlands resident, Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce member and editor of the Lake Berryessa News, has long pushed for a resort revival. He said he believes the resort saga has reached a turning point.
He’s ready for the next step of having the county release requests-for-proposal to find concessionaires. The only reason he is a little negative is he wants everything to happen faster, Kilkus said.
“I believe there are people willing to bid,” Kilkus said on Friday.
In the long run, redeveloped resorts would generate taxes and fees for the county. County costs could be $2.5 million a year and the resorts could generate $3.5 million a year, Grant Sedgwick of Ragatz Realty said told the Board of Supervisors last year.
If operations and maintenance costs exceed revenues in the early years, the Bureau of Reclamation proposes to pay up to 50 percent of the deficit. The cap would be $1 million over five years, the proposed agreement said.
Napa County managed Lake Berryessa resorts once before. That began soon after the federal government created the reservoir by building Monticello Dam in the late 1950s.
The county in 1958 approved a 50-year contract to manage lake recreation. It then oversaw the development of seven resorts that, to avoid using local taxpayers money, were run by private concessionaires.
But the county allowed about 1,700 mobile homes at the resorts, along with the the marinas and campsites. That drew criticism from the federal government.
“The concessionaires generally have developed the resorts as mobile home parks, to the detriment of the public interest,” a 1972 U.S. General Accounting Office report said.
Napa County officials responded that the long-term leases provided by the mobile home owners provided a needed, steady income for the resorts. By 1974, the county had enough of the resort controversies and canceled its management contract.
That was another era and another set of circumstances, with the mobile homes gone and no longer an issue. This time, the Bureau of Reclamation and county appear to be on the same page with the proposed, 137-page management agreement.
“The Bureau gave us as much latitude as they could,” Dillon said. “We are all optimistic that it will allow us to do what needs to be done up there.”
You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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