The Lake Berryessa News

Your Information Gateway to Lake Berryessa and our Napa Back Roads!


Dam Level Update: 11/17/14

The elevation of the spillway (Glory Hole) at Monticello Dam is 440 feet msl. The water is now 39.25 feet below the top of the spillway at 400.75 feet, a 1.3 inch drop in the last week. Lake Berryessa has had a total rainfall of 1.42 inches since 7/1/14.



We must protect Lake Berryessa from the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument crusade.

Lake Berryessa is Neither a National Conservation Area nor a National Monument.

Take Lake Berryessa Off the Map! Use the link below to email your comments to the President.

President Moves Forward with Massive Monument Designation in California -- Vows That He Is Not Finished.

On Friday, October 10, the President unilaterally designated 350,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest as the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in California. He made this move despite local opposition to the designation. In fact, just last month Rep. Paul Cook (RCA), whose district is impacted, wrote a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opposing any effort to designate a national monument in the San Gabriel Mountains without local consent.

This letter noted the need for more public meetings in San Bernardino County to discuss the proposal and highlighted the major economic, recreational, and safety challenges that such a designation would impose on local communities.

The San Gabriel designation is particularly troubling as this national monument proposal stemmed from legislation, H.R. 4858, which was introduced only four months ago and has not had a single committee hearing.

Please Take Action by sending an email to the President urging him NOT to make massive inappropriate National Monument designations against the recommendations of local citizens in the future.

During the announcement the President said, “We are looking at additional opportunities to preserve federal lands and waters and I will continue to do so especially where communities are speaking up.”

It is imperative that you “speak up” against such designations or the next one could lock up the public lands where you recreate!


Lake Berryessa Senior Center Thanksgiving Dinner











Fridays – Saturdays – Sunday’s
December 6th through December 21st

Music & Wine Tasting from 12pm – 4pm Sunday, December 21st

Spanish Flat Village Center, 4318 Berryessa Knoxville Rd.

Handmade items, Jewelry, Napkins – Aprons, Cookies - Candies, Jams, Jellies & Relish’s etc.

Unique items from:
The Handmade Store
Spanish Flat Country Store
California Outdoor Properties
Berryessa Valley History Exhibit
Cucina Italiana Restaurant

For more information call 966-1600


Operation With Love From Home

The Community Church of Lake Berryessa is pleased to announce its participation in the “Operation With Love From Home” (OWLFH) program. This program sponsored by our local Queen of The Valley Hospitals Community Outreach Department is a community effort for our troops deployed overseas.

The OWLFH organization three times a year places collection barrels throughout the community in preparation for sending gift boxes to our troops. The barrels contain information on what is being collected and information can also be obtained at the OWLFH web site. Some of the items sought are Boot socks, Kleenex, Batteries, Lip balm, Sunblock, Disposable razors etc.

Each gift box also gets a hand-written letter of support. Monetary donations to help pay for shipping and other costs are also appreciated. To date more than 8,000 care packages have been sent to or troops.

The Community Church is partnering with several local Berryessa organizations to aid in this effort. Collection barrels will be out after Oct 25th at the following locations Turtle Rock, Lake Berryessa Market, Steele Canyon Pizzeria, Spanish Flat Country store, Community Church and the Berryessa Senior Center. Donations by the end of November will be greatly appreciated for the Christmas effort.

You can contact the Church at 707-252-4488 for further information.

Thanks again and God Bless, Pastor Bob


To BOR Or Not To BOR? Is That Really The Question?
By Peter Kilkus 

Or is the real question why HR 4166, the so-called "Lake Berryessa Recreation Enhancement Act of 2014", was proposed by Congressman Mike Thompson (March, 2014) in the first place. The bill purports to be aimed at improving management of Lake Berryessa by transferring responsibility for lake operations from the Bureau of Reclamation to the Bureau of Land Management. But what can the Bureau of Land Management actually do better than the Bureau of Reclamation in the future?

Regular readers of the Lake Berryessa News are aware that the bill has been quite controversial within the Lake Berryessa community because of the initial language in the bill and because of the support for the bill by exclusionist groups who basically wish to restrict future recreational uses of the lake. As originally written the would have allowed a new plan to be developed for the lake despite the fact that an approved plan already exists (VSP ROD), eighteen months of detailed concession planning with proposed maps has already been accomplished, and the new Bid Prospectus is well on its way to being released.

Amended Bill Passes Out of Committee
After significant opposition to the bill as it was originally written, an amended version was finally passed out of the House committee on Natural Resources on September 18th, 2014. The bill will probably move no further this year and will have to be re-introduced in the next Congress. The Department of the Interior "supports" the bill but has major concerns regarding its implementation.
Although the bill was held up in committee for two months, a recent press release from Thompson's office regarding the bill's committee hurdle did not acknowledge the significant controversy over the bill, the opposition by businesses and residents of Lake Berryessa to the bill, nor the significant language changes in the amended bill.
The amended bill has not yet been published on tracking sites such as GovTrack. However, the Lake Berryessa News has obtained a copy of the amended language. The most significant changes, as requested in the June 10, 2014 written testimony by the Lake Berryessa News and in written requests from Lake Berryessa businesses and residents, were the following (underlined):
SEC. 4. Transfer of administrative jurisdiction.

(a)   ESTABLISHMENT - Subject to valid existing rights, there is established the Lake Berryessa Recreational Area, the boundaries of which are described in subsection (c). In administering the Recreation Area, the Secretary shall not-
(1)  diminish the levels of day-use occupancy, short-term occupancy and annual occupancy as set forth in the recreational use plan adopted by the Bureau of Reclamation on June 2, 2006, for the Recreation Area;
(2)  diminish motorized boating or alter the "Water Surface Zoning and Restrictions" developed under Action 17 of the 1993 Recreation Area Management Plan Record of Decision and continued in the recreational use plan adopted by the Bureau of Reclamation on June 2, 2006, for the Recreation Area;
(3)  close trails or limit recreational hiking and equine access trails on lands in the Recreation Area; and
(4)  negatively impact hunting, fishing, shooting sports, or trapping on the lands and waters within boundaries of the Recreation Area.

(d) Existing agreements.-To benefit the interests of the public, the Secretary shall act, including those in accordance with any agreement in existence on the date of the enactment of this Act with any organization for the management of:
(1) campgrounds located in the Recreation Area; and
(2) marinas located in the Recreation Area;
(3) lodging facilities located in the Recreation Area;
(4) food and beverage services located in the Recreation Area; and
(5) boating and boat rental facilities located in the Recreation Area.

(e) Comprehensive Management Plan

(1) ADOPTION OF RECREATIONAL USE PLAN.-To manage the Recreation Area, the Secretary shall adopt and use the recreational use plan adopted by the Bureau of Reclamation on June 2, 2006, for the Recreational Area.  The adoption of this plan shall not constitute a major federal action for the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.)  This action is not subject to judicial review.

(2) APPLICABILITY.-Nothing in this Act requires an immediate revision or amendment to any plan for the Recreation Area.

(3) USE OF PLANNING DOCUMENTS. The Secretary may use planning documents prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation without further administrative action.

(4) CONTINUATION OF AGREEMENTS - Facilities and services provided in the Recreation Area under existing concession agreements or contracts or recreation lease agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation, including agreements for campgrounds and marinas, shall continue to be in effect pursuant to the terms and conditions of each agreement.
Another significant change was the removal of Sec.8. Recreation And Concession Fees.
The bill now describes Lake Berryessa as the Lake Berryessa Recreational Area. This is a description only and does not have any connection to the National Recreation Area designation under National Park Service legal guidelines. Anyone who has been to Lake Berryessa recently has seen that each of the present concession areas has been named a recreation area. Special thanks to Napa County, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Lake Berryessa Chamber Of Commerce for coordinating and funding the new brown and white directional signs that were installed all around the lake last summer.
Now that the amendments to the bill seem to have inoculated it against the virus-like threats of radical exclusionists groups who wish to limit recreational access to Lake Berryessa, the question still remains - why pass it?
Department of the Interior "Supports" Bill, But Questions Its Ability to Implement

In verbal and written testimony at the original June 10th committee hearing, the DOI said:
"While the Department supports the transfer, we note that given the limited available BLM resources, a transfer of jurisdiction to the BLM would not alleviate the management concerns that have been raised by the public and the sponsor.
The BLM currently administers recreation commercial leases, which are similar to concessions contracts, under existing authorities. However, the BLM is concerned that the bill as written does not provide sufficient authority under which the BLM would administer these concessions contracts. The BLM is further concerned that site-specific concessions authority for Lake Berryessa alone would lead to inconsistent management across BLM-managed lands and uncertainty for concessionaire businesses.

In addition, the BLM would like to explore with the sponsor and the Committee potential opportunities to identify adequate legal authority for the management of all existing and new concessions contracts throughout BLM-managed lands nationwide."
This is definitely not the solid endorsement of the bill that Congressman Thompson hoped for. It gets even worse when the DOI attempts to answer the serious questions posed by the Lake Berryessa News and other concerned parties.
Research into the differences between BOR and BLM management programs and policies shows that any transition will be complex and time-consuming. For example, resources and funding for any management transition are of primary concern.
At present funding levels, the BLM Ukiah Field Office has neither the capacity nor the resources to take on management and oversight of Lake Berryessa. The BOR's current funding appropriation for Lake Berryessa (labor and operations) exceeds the budget for the entire Ukiah Field Office by 1.5 million dollars. 
The BLM does not have a specific legislative authority or regulations for a concession program. It uses something called a Recreation Commercial Services (RCS) program which uses a lease and a Special Recreation Permit. This leads to a more complicated administrative process unlike a concessionaire agreement which includes all of the terms in one contract. 

At a minimum, the BLM wants specific nationwide concession legislative authority for the agency which would provide consistency in the management of Lake Berryessa and future concession opportunities on other BLM lands. Anyone familiar with the speed with which bureaucratic changes of this magnitude proceed will understand the problem with respect to any proposed management change at Lake Berryessa.
In order to provide for appropriate management of the Lake Berryessa site, the BLM would need to complete a plan amendment for the 2006 Ukiah Resource Management Plan (RMP), particularly to address BLM's responsibility for certain programs not associated with BOR. For example, fire management, range management, and law enforcement were not analyzed under BOR's Visitor Service Plan. 
Cost and time frame for the development of a comprehensive management plan for Lake Berryessa would be determined by the level of NEPA analysis necessary to adequately address concerns and resource impacts. Some time savings may be possible since the BLM is now required by this amended legislation to adopt the BOR Visitor Services Plan.
It would appear that the complexity of the process, and lack of enthusiasm for it by the Department of the Interior (and the BOR and BLM themselves), again raises the question: Why do it at all?
The Lake Berryessa News Continues to Oppose HR 4166
Before anyone decides to support Thompson's amended bill, several important consideration remain.
Since most of the BOR managers who were responsible for the previous problems are no longer with Reclamation, and the present management has shown that it understands the causes of the previous disaster, and the present management has shown good faith and modest results during the last year, why change now?
The other BOR senior managers in the present Lake Berryessa chain of command, during meetings of the Lake Berryessa Community Forum, have stated that they understand what went wrong with the previous process and are determined to do it right this time. Since the Bid Prospectus planning process is well underway and is actually being done right this time, in the opinion of knowledgeable observers, why change now?
Since the BOR and the BLM are both part of the Department of the Interior, what would actually be different about the present planning process after this management change if the bureaucratic complexities could be overcome successfully?
What real-life examples of BLM recreational facilities run by concessionaires with marinas, modern camping, lodging, restaurants, and other recreational amenities exist? Most BLM "recreational" facilities are primitive campgrounds and small launch ramps.
There is a small, unrepresentative BLM enclave at Lake Havasu which I've visited in the past, and will again next week. It has little resemblance to the type of concessions that existed, and will exist in the future, at Lake Berryessa.
What specifically can the BLM do better and faster than the BOR? How will the BLM specifically improve recreation in the short-term and long-term at Lake Berryessa compared to the current BOR management?
What happens to the current BOR employees, some long-term, who care as much about the lake as do local residents? Their lives would be seriously affected, their jobs could be eliminated, their families could be uprooted for no good reason.
Perhaps it's time we stopped talking about the "bad ole days" and concentrate on the future. Thompson's bill has no substance behind it and no evidence for its potential benefit. It simply appears that he is intent on punishing the BOR for its past mistakes which, ironically, he was instrumental in supporting.

A More Serious Threat to the Future of Lake Berryessa

The Berryessa Snow Mountain NCA/National Monument

Take Lake Berryessa Off The Map!

Lake Berryessa is neither an NCA nor a National Monument!

See Story Below.

National Public Lands Day
Saturday, Nov. 15, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Eticuera Day Use Area

Help restore Lake Berryessa’s native landscape at this restoration event. Volunteers will plant native plants and trees as part of an ongoing restoration effort. To volunteer, please contact Jason Jordan at 707-966-2111 ext. 143 or

Lake Berryessa Water Education Program
Available by Appointment
Oak Shores Day Use Area

The Lake Berryessa Water Education Program is an interdisciplinary learning experience for students in grades 4-6. The program integrates the natural resources of Lake Berryessa with California State curriculum standards. Classes join a Park Ranger at the lake to learn about the importance of water in their lives. In addition to the onsite learning experience, a teacher packet is available with logistical information and pre- and post-site activities. Berryessa Park Rangers may be available to conduct pre-site classroom visits. For more details on this free program, please contact Mike McGraw at 707-966-2111, ext. 112 or

Paddle With A Park Ranger
See locations and times below.

Experience Lake Berryessa from a unique perspective during these Ranger-led paddling tours. Paddling outings are open to experienced swimmers with a kayak, canoe or other non-motorized boat. Coast Guard-approved life jackets will be available, but boats are not available for rent. Participants should bring their boat, life jacket, paddle, sunscreen, hat, water, clothing layers depending on the weather, and a lunch/snack. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. Changes to locations and times may occur because of fluctuating water levels. Events occur rain or shine, but high winds could cause an event to be cancelled. For details, directions and to RSVP, please contact Victoria Payan at 707-966-2111 ext. 113 or

Proponents of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area, knowing that Congressman Thompson’s highly unpopular bill will never pass Congress, have begun an anti-democratic strategy to bypass Congress and have the President declare Lake Berryessa a National Monument under the Antiquities Act - simply by a stroke of his pen!

Lake Berryessa does not meet the basic standards of an NCA. And it especially doesn’t meet any criteria to become a National Monument.

The main problem affecting Lake Berryessa in all this chaos is that it was included in the original silly Berryessa Snow Mountain NCA in the first place. Lake Berryessa is like the tail of a dog that can't seem to wag the rest of the dog's body. The lake is not even connected on the map to the rest of the proposed NCA/National Monument which stretches far into Northern California. Just look at the map yourself!

At a minimum, Lake Berryessa should be removed from the boundaries of any proposed National Monument or NCA and the NCA should be renamed the Mendocino Snow Mountain NCA.

The Antiquities Act states that National Monuments should contain “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” and be “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” Lake Berryessa meets neither criteria and clearly falls into the “Rural Developed Setting” under the government’s own Water and Land Recreation Opportunity Spectrum Users' Handbook (WALROS) quoted below. This designation should immediately exclude it from National Monument or NCA consideration. And Lake Berryessa and the surrounding areas are already highly protected.

"A rural developed area is beyond a metropolitan area and the suburban ring of development. Rural developed areas may serve as "bedroom" communities for urban areas and may contain working farms, ranches, and towns. In this setting, primary road networks are common. Although development will be prevalent and common, the setting has a pastoral sense because of an interspersing of forests, water resources, hills, valleys, canyons, wetlands, open spaces, and agricultural lands. Naturally appearing shoreline edges are common, although various water controls or other structures are also common. Recreation management is prevalent and common but not as extensive as in an urban setting.”
Lake Berryessa is a man-made lake with no special historical or environmental significance, created by a minor dam and surrounded by bedroom communities and private land. It has historically been a major public recreation destination. Although I have been a long-standing critic of the Bureau of Reclamation in the past, its recent actions show that Reclamation is doing an excellent job in managing the future development process for the revitalization of the lake. Reclamation’s last Public Forum presentation in Winters of the status and results of the ongoing planning process for the lake’s redevelopment were extremely thorough and professional. It included drafts of detailed Market Assessment and Financial Analysis, Conceptual Site Plans, and Infrastructure Design Report. These are all available for review at their web site:

How would a National Monument designation affect residents, property owners, and ranchers in the boundaries? How would the designation affect the NBRID, the Berryessa Highlands, and the potential Community Services District being planned for that region?

A National Monument is traditionally managed by the National Park Service, but the Bureau of Land Management has often been designated as the manager in the legislation. A National Monument designation would force out the Bureau of Reclamation - as would Thompson’s other bill in Congress. His management transfer bill, HR4166, does not enjoy popular support among the people affected and has never had any significant public input. What would be the cost of the transition and who would pay for it? How long would it delay the present process? What specifically can the BLM do better an faster than the BOR?

What happens to current Reclamation employees, some long-term, who care as much about the lake as do local residents? Their lives would be seriously affected, their jobs could be eliminated, their families could be uprooted for no good reason.

A National Monument designation could severely restrict public access to and future development at the lake - as could an NCA designation. The usual radical exclusionist suspects have already been floating the idea that some of the resorts should not be reopened at all, reopened with limited amenities, or reopened for day use only. 


Open Facilities

Markley Cove Resort, Pleasure Cove Marina, Steele Canyon Recreation Area, Spanish Flat Recreation Area and Putah Canyon Recreation Area continue to be open and offer a variety of recreation services. For information regarding operations and services offered at concession-operated facilities, please call the concession operators or visit their websites:

Markley Cove: 707-966-2134,

Pleasure Cove Marina: 707-966-9600,

Steele Canyon Recreation Area: 707-966-9179,

Spanish Flat Recreation Area: 707-966-9192,

Putah Canyon Recreation Area: 707-966-9051,
For questions, please contact the Lake Berryessa Field Office at 707-966-2111 ext. 0.

Please visit the Lake Berryessa website at for additional information.


Carol Fitzpatrick has developed a great new web site for the Berryessa Valley History Exhibit at the Spanish Flat Village Center with some interesting photos and personal stories about the Berryessa Valley and Town of Monticello before the Monticello Dam was built in 1958.


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The Lake Berryessa News Archives (2005 - 2012)


Peter Kilkus, Owner/Editor
1515 Headlands Drive
Napa, CA 94558, 415-307-6906

Last Update on November 12, 2014

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