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Lake Berryessa (copy)

A boater out on Lake Berryessa. 

Napa County is fishing for companies to redevelop and operate five Lake Berryessa resorts and it’s using a slick brochure as bait.

About 10 million people live within 100 miles of Lake Berryessa and many of them like outdoor recreation. The region is one of the nation’s most prosperous, the brochure says.

Yet, despite the presence of outdoor lovers with money to spend, the brochure contends that the supply of high-quality lake resorts greatly lags demand.

Then comes the hook: “Lake Berryessa could represent one of the most untapped opportunities for quality, lake-orientated resort development in all of California.”

Redeveloped resorts would have marinas, campsites, picnic sites and RV areas. Those were standbys at the old resorts conceived and built in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

But the brochure encourages would-be developers to go beyond old-school thinking. A 21st-century Lake Berryessa could have hotels, an amphitheater, glamping, a nine-hole golf course, a safari park, night entertainment, a sports academy, wedding venues, cottages and a zip line.

The county is working with Ragatz Realty, an international firm that focuses on the resort industry. Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said Ragatz sent out the Lake Berryessa marketing materials to more than 10,000 contacts.

Would-be developers will tour the five targeted Lake Berryessa resort sites – Putah Canyon, Monticello Shores, Berryessa Point, Spanish Flat and Steele Canyon. The original tour date of Oct. 18 was postponed because of the worst wildfire disaster in county history and will take place in November.

Those who like what they see will have until Dec. 14 to submit request-for-information-and-interest applications.

The county Board of Supervisors will use the results to decide whether to continue fishing or cut bait on Lake Berryessa concessionaire management. Rattigan said the Berryessa issue could come before supervisors early next year.

Supervisors will weigh whether the county can succeed where the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has failed over the past decade. They will decide whether Napa County enters into a partner agreement with the federal agency, which oversees the lake shoreline.

If Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation agree to terms, the county would take over the stalled resort redevelopment effort. The county would return to the interested concessionaires and ask for formal redevelopment and operation proposals.

“Lake Berryessa has great potential,” county Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said. “But we haven’t had the terms or structure that have allowed true success to happen from the development side.”

Unlike the Bureau of Reclamation, the county can market the lake to potential developers/operators using a firm such as Ragatz Realty. The Bureau has had trouble finding concessionaires to its liking by simply releasing requests for proposals.

The brochure anticipates some apprehensions that resort developers might have about Lake Berryessa. Perhaps they fear high land prices, the prospect of lengthy environmental studies, costly zoning battles and the threat of litigation from environmental groups.

“Napa County, like most prime resort destinations in California, is a challenging place to pursue new development,” the brochure says.

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But at Lake Berryessa resort sites, no rezoning or county general plan amendments are required. The Bureau of Reclamation has started environmental studies. Napa County officials support proper resort development. The county might be willing to offer a variety of financial incentives, the brochure says.

“Lake Berryessa is one of the largest and most attractive freshwater lakes in California,” it says.

Rattigan said the county has talked to several interested developers/operators. It is meeting with Bureau of Reclamation officials on a regular basis.

“This is the opportunity for the county to market the Berryessa opportunity,” Rattigan said.

The federal reservoir in eastern Napa County has seven resorts. Only Markley Cove and Pleasure Cove are operating at full strength.

The other five have been caught in limbo for almost a decade after previous concessionaire contracts expired. The Bureau of Reclamation cleared infrastructure so the sites could be redeveloped.

Spanish Flat, Steele Canyon and Putah Canyon are operating in stripped-down fashion on interim contracts. Berryessa Point and Monticello Shores are closed. All five are awaiting their long-stalled rebirths.


Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He was worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield. He is a graduate of UC Sa