"Holes In History" at Lake Berryessa

"Holes In History" at Lake Berryessa: 

Simple Incompetence, Fervent Ignorance, Malicious Arrogance

I define a “hole in history” as a period of time during which accomplishments were planned to occur or results were expected to be achieved but, unexpectedly, both vanished from our historical timeline. A recent example of that phenomenon was the effect of the Atlas Fire on the potential Lake Berryessa revitalization process. Several events important to that process were to occur during October, 2017, but had to be delayed for three months.

The Atlas Fire tragedy ripped many huge holes in history for those whose houses burned to the ground and whose daily existence was upended. Those holes will only be filled after months, if not years, of rebuilding.

But this three month hole in history at Lake Berryessa is only the latest of many that have slowed progress in rebuilding the lake during the last twenty years. The original Bureau of Reclamation plans in 2000 called for a “seamless transition” from the supposedly polluting resorts populated by evil mobile home owners who denied access to the American people, to the new glorious days of internal-combustion-engine-free eco-resorts populated by pink unicorns and vacationing tooth fairies.

They say you can’t kill time without harming eternity. But at Lake Beryessa time was beaten into a coma by a combination of simple incompetence, fervent ignorance, and malicious arrogance.

Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'...Into the future...

So how much time did the holes in history at Lake Berryessa steal from us?

The first hole in history occurred when Reclamation released its first bid prospectus in 2007. The initial due date for bid proposals was September 6, 2007. The bid decision was delayed for 4 months due to a lawsuit by Markley Cove. Selection of successful bidders occurred in April, 2008. Contract negotiations began in June, 2008. 

The government began excavation of the second major hole in history in March, 2009. Reclamation canceled negotiations with Markley Cove and Pensus because of a minor technicality in the bid document regarding future federal funding. This could have been easily resolved. A single government attorney seriously disrupts a decades long process. Reclamation required a complete rebid of the concession selection process.

The revised bid prospectus was released two months later in May, 2009. New bid proposals due were due in September, 2009; five separate proposals were received. In January, 2010 Pensus Group was selected as most responsive bid for all six concession areas.

This idiotic rebid process caused an incredible 19 month delay, April, 2008 to January, 2010 plus 4 months in 2007- 23 months, almost 2 years lost!

The third major hole in history began to form immediately after the Pensus contract was awarded in May, 2010. Relations between Pensus and Reclamation soon begin to deteriorate. No progress was made in redeveloping any of the resorts. Many of the problems appeared to observers to be caused by Reclamation’s unrealistic policies and poor management. Pensus management appeared inept and arrogant despite the validity of many of their complaints.

From December, 2011 to December, 2012 relations between Pensus and Reclamation continued to deteriorate with long legal arguments exchanged. The Pensus contract was terminated in December, 2012. May, 2010 to December, 2012. And so another TWO YEARS and SEVEN MONTHS were lost!

At the end of 2012 the total holes in history count stood at FOUR YEARS and SIX MONTHS.

The fourth hole in history was another long one. From August, 2013 to January, 2014 Reclamation prepared various detailed plans for five concession areas, some of which had been done for the previous bid proposals. 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. August, 2013 to February, 2016 - another TWO YEARS and SEVEN MONTHS lost.

In March, 2016, the Lake Berryessa News began its Renaissance Lake Berryessa campaign to return management of Lake Berryessa to Napa County. In January, 2017 Napa County began serious efforts to evaluate the feasibility of taking over management of the lake. Napa County Supervisors direct staff to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Reclamation and a contract with Ragatz Sedgwick Realty to assist the County in identifying interested concession partners in the resort.

In October, 2017 Another important milestone in the potential rebirth of Lake Berryessa was achieved. Napa County issued a Request for Information and Interest (RFII) to solicit potential concessionaires for five sites at the lake.

“Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me”

If all goes well, the present schedule shows an optimistic date of July, 2018 for concessionaire selection and negotiations. You do the math. The first contract negotiations of the new era began in June, 2008. The optimistic schedule for successful future contract negotiations is July, 2018.

The total holes in history at Lake Berryessa add up to more than TEN YEARS of lost opportunities - a generation of children and families have missed some of the best experiences of their lives! Time to start fulfilling expectations, not digging new holes.

Life After the Holes

The County/BOR RFII process is moving forward with positive results. The Bureau of Reclamation had many staff members, some from as far away as their Denver office, here all day on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 for a presentation and tour for prospective bidders. This was followed by an evening public Community Forum meeting hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation and the County of Napa.

The result of that day was very good news for Lake Berryessa. Reclamation said that it is dedicated to coming to a Managing Partner Agreement with the County that allows the County to manage the concessions. A Managing Partner Agreement 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.

The County is dedicating major financial and staff resources to make this happen. Both Lake Berryessa supervisors, Alfredo Pedroza and Diane Dillon, were present and 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.”

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018