Beating a dead horse with a stick or beating a horse with a dead stick? Is the Bureau of Reclamation a dead horse no longer functioning, or is the influence of Napa County just a dead stick when encountering bureaucratic inertia? It’s been a long time since the original promise by the Bureau of Reclamation of a “seamless transition” at Lake Berryessa followed by many years of total chaos leading to the destruction of a local community and economy you see here now.
After the Pensus fiasco of 2010, Reclamation officials appeared to finally understand the serious damage they had done to our community. They scrambled from August, 2013 to January, 2014 to prepare various detailed plans for five concession areas. In July, 2015 Reclamation released its latest Concession Bid Prospectus. In February, 2016 Reclamation announced that no acceptable bids were received - a major disaster for the Lake Berryessa community.
There was a period after that last failed bid process that Reclamation felt enough “guilt” to agree to work towards a Managing Partner Agreement with Napa County to allow the county to take over management of the resorts and create its own bid package and subsequent concession contracts.
Napa County kept its word. It funded a detailed study showing that Lake Berryessa is a recreational gem that should provide significant financial incentive for resort companies to bid on running the lake resorts. At a Dec. 13, 2017 meeting, both Lake Berryessa supervisors, Alfredo Pedroza and Diane Dillon, spoke positively about the potential outcomes. Supervisor Pedroza said, “We’ve made great progress in working with the Bureau of Reclamation that will renew the vibrancy and allow sensible development at the lake.”
In January 2018, Reclamation said that it also was dedicated to coming to a Managing Partner Agreement (MPA) with the County. An MPA would allow Napa County to manage concession contracts with terms that were previously not available through Reclamation, leading to the revitalization of the whole region.
But then something non-happened - everything stopped. One hang-up seems to be the typical bureaucratic “off like a herd of turtles” syndrome. The other is the federal government approving 50-year terms for new concession contracts rather than the 30-year terms originally proposed by the Department of the Interior.
Napa County is well managed with a dedicated professional staff. They have done their due diligence, and all indications are that various departments are prepared to move forward with the bid process and concession management plans.
But where is the Bureau of Reclamation? Well, it appears - nowhere. We’ve lost another month, now four months behind schedule, due to bureaucratic bungling on the part of the Bureau of Reclamation. Apparently no one in that bureaucracy is willing to stand up and make a decision about the 50-year contract term. This is a betrayal of magnificent proportions.
I am very concerned that the Bureau of Reclamation is once again ignoring the needs of the Lake Berryessa community. Why has Reclamation unilaterally delayed this important process? Why has Reclamation not followed through with the critically important approval of 50-year contract terms - which all research has shown to be necessary to attract competent recreation companies to invest in new facilities?
It is sobering to think that I've been in this fight since 1998 -- 20 years. And we've lost more than 10 years of family recreation. Tens of thousands of families and children -- almost a whole generation -- have been denied the pleasures of having fun at the largest and cleanest lake in Northern California.