Past, Present, and Future at Lake Berryessa - 2016 Version

 By Peter Kilkus 

The end of one year and the beginning of another is usually a time for reflection -  a bit like the Dickens Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Ghost of Lake Berryessa Past

The Ghost of Lake Berryessa Past ten years ago in 2006 is described in the article below - Ten Years Ago at Lake Berryessa. A long controversial process creating the Visitor Services Plan which resulted in a Record of Decision which kicked out all the mobile homes had just ended. The future was uncertain, but the resorts were still operating.

Although the mobile homeowners were in the process of losing everything and would pay heavily to demolish their family vacation spots, there was still some optimism among resort owners and local businesses. A description of the seven resorts in 2006 below will be heartbreaking to some.

That optimism was short-lived as the Bureau of Reclamation’s Record of Decision was implemented and several abortive bid processes stumbled forward into nine years of chaos which resulted in the destruction of the Lake Berryessa community and economy.

About a year ago Bureau of Reclamation  completed a nearly two year process to identify  concessionaires to redevelop the recreation areas at Lake Berryessa. In February 2016 Reclamation announced that the latest effort to recruit new resort operators had failed.

The Lake Berryessa News, the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce, and local residents then strongly promoted a new strategy - have Napa County take over management of the lake recreation areas under a Managing Partner Agreement with Reclamation.

Both Napa County and Reclamation responded positively (although hesitantly) to this proposal. On April 5, 2016, in response to the current status of the lake, the Board authorized staff to engage in discussions with Reclamation and the Department of the Interior (DOI) regarding the future of the concession areas of Lake Berryessa.

On June 7, 2016, the County entered into an agreement with Perkins Coie for specialized legal advisory services on federal statutory and regulatory law as it pertains to concessions management.

On June 21, 2016, the Board directed staff to enter into negotiations for a Managing Partner Agreement between the County and Reclamation. Under a Managing Partner Agreement, the responsibility to develop and manage public recreation areas would be transferred to Napa County.

County staff quickly learned that it is difficult to negotiate a fair and accurate agreement when the possible interest in concessions is unknown. The parties discussed first entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to gauge the commercial interest in Lake Berryessa, as well as determine if the types and scope of recreation opportunities for potential developers were also viable under federal, state and local policies and laws.

Ghost of Lake Berryessa Present

The Ghost of Lake Berryessa Present was active at the December 6th Board of Supervisors meeting when the supervisors accepted a recommendation to move forward with this strategy by providing direction to staff to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Reclamation and a contract with Ragatz Sedgwick Realty for its knowledge and experience in developing hotels, resorts and other recreational opportunities worldwide.

Under this agreement, Ragatz Sedgwick Realty will assist the County in  identifying interested concession partners by marketing the opportunity to the resort community and performing a feasibility analysis to determine the best use of each site. The County’s intent is to market Lake Berryessa and seek interest in the opportunities that exist.

The goal is to create a short list of interested parties that are viable and have interest and ideas that can fit within the Visitor Services Plan.

If Ragatz Sedgwick is successful in identifying interest, the County and Reclamation will move forward with negotiating a Managing Partner Agreement for recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and creating a formal Request for Proposal process to select a concessionaire.

Ghost of Lake Berryessa Future

The Ghost of Lake Berryessa Future cannot actually show the future in this scenario, but the indications are positive for progress in 2017. The good news includes a $ 50,000 investment by Napa County in revitalizing Lake Berryessa.

According to County staff, the working relationship with Reclamation has been very good. Ragatz Sedgwick are eager to get started and have established an impressive professional team. The goal is to move as quickly as possible in tandem with other discussions. Hopefully, within two to three months, they’ll have an idea as to how great the interest is and how quickly the process can move forward.


CeCe Christmas 2016


Community Church Christmas Events

Community Church of Lake Berryessa and Valley Christian Church will be hosting its community Christmas dinner on Monday December 19th. Dinner will be at the R-Ranch with doors opening at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30 pm. Come join us for a casual evening of food and carols.

Please note all entrants to R-Ranch will need to sign a Hold Harmless form at the main gate. A representative will be at the gate to accomplish this. No entrance after 6:45 pm.

Community Church will be caroling in the community and is looking for singers to join us! On Sunday the 18th at 6:00 pm we will meet at the church and carol in the Capell Valley Mobile Estates mobile park. Come join us for a joyful noise in our community. Refreshments and fellowship to follow.

Our Christmas Eve Service will be at 6:30 pm. It will include song, message, candle light singing of carols and fellowship afterwards. No Services on Christmas Day.


“Post-Truth” Succeeds “Truthiness” as Word of the Year

 Isn’t Politics Wonderful!

If you are involved in national or local politics, you know that some people find the truth too confining. Some of these types of folks were instrumental in creating “The Big Lie” about Lake Berryessa which helped bring about the present situation out here.

The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that "post-truth" is its 2016 word of the year. The word is "an adjective defined as 'relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.' "

The word has been around for a few decades or so, but according to the Oxford Dictionary, there has been a spike in frequency of usage since Brexit and an even bigger jump since the period before the American presidential election.

Post-Truth is an evolutionary extension of a previous word of the year - Truthiness. Truthiness is a quality characterizing a "truth" that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively "from the gut" or because it "feels right" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Truthiness refers to the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.

Scoop Nisker was a longtime fixture on San Francisco radio station KFOG during hippie times. He became well known for the catchphrase, "If you don't like the news... go out and make some of your own," Today his catchphrase would probably have to be "If you don't like the news... go out and make “up” some of your own.”


Sunrise Solar


Ten Years Ago at Lake Berryessa

by Peter Kilkus

As Napa County moves slowly towards potentially taking over management of the Lake Berryessa recreation areas, it's interesting to read about what the situation was like 10 years ago in 2006. 

A long controversial process creating the Visitor Services Plan which resulted in a Record of Decision which kicked out all the mobile homes had just ended. The future was uncertain. 

A bid process for new concessionaires to run the resorts was just beginning. Ten years later the situation is still a mess and the future is still uncertain. The following is a local report from June 2006 which foreshadows the upcoming disaster.


After five years of public hearings and intense debate, the Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday, June 6, 2006 that 1,300 privately owned trailers at Lake Berryessa have to go.

The federal agency's record of decision aims to reshape 12 miles of the lake's most prime shoreline by ousting the trailers that have dominated seven lakeside recreational resorts for decades.

The new  "Lake Berryessa Visitor Services Plan" sets new standards for lakeside vacation lodging, barring trailers but allowing RV and tent-camping, cabins, motels and hotels, among other permanent structures.

Reciting the bureau's long-held position, spokesman Jeff McCracken said the lake plan's goal is to "open the reservoir to the broader general public for more short-term use." Areas closest to the water's edge will be reserved for day-use, and those higher up divided into zones for overnight and long-term use.

Although the government has established parameters for future lake use, what Berryessa looks like in 10 years "will be up to private enterprise," McCracken said.

The federal agency is determining the future management of the seven lakeshore resorts through a public bidding process that will begin as soon a request for business proposals is completed, McCracken said. Meanwhile, trailer owners must remove their vacation mobile homes by 2008 and 2009, when contracts with six of the resorts expire.

While many trailer owners say they were anticipating the bureau's ouster, news of the decision was a heartbreaker for families who have long known Lake Berryessa as their summer getaway.

"We didn't just buy a mobile home, we bought the dream of someplace to bring your children, grandchildren, and children after that," said Sidney Silberberg who works as a fishing guide at the lake when he's not helping out at his son's video store.

"It's a devastation to our family and our family relations. This is the place that family becomes family because everyone is under one roof and you make the ties of a lifetime more comfortably for that day, that weekend, or that three-day weekend," said Silberberg as he recalled jet-skiing and fishing with his wife, son, daughter-in-law, daughter and friends.

The bureau's decision translates not only into an emotional but also a significant financial loss for Silberberg. He said 10 years ago the $25,000 trailer by the lake was the only summer home his family could afford. 

After pouring in about $75,000 to re-carpet, re-roof and "re-everything" over the years, Silberberg said he wished he'd accepted a $175,000 offer someone made him for the trailer four years ago. Now with the trailer's fate sealed, Silberberg doubted anyone would pay more than $2,000 for it.

(Editor's Note 2016: Not only did mobile homeowners not get anything for their property, Steele Park owners actually had to pay about $3,500 each to have their places demolished. Mobile home owners in all the other resorts faced the same costly problem.)

As trailer owners counted their woes, other Berryessa stake-holders viewed the decision as a victory. Bob White — who runs Rancho Monticello Resort and also represents the Lake Berryessa Resort Owners Association — called the decree a "win for users and the resorts."

After fretting the federal agency would dissolve the long-standing resorts and consolidate them under one operator, White saw the decision as a triumph for resort managers who now have a fighting chance to continue running the resorts. He also applauded the fact present-day trailer owners get first dibs on future long-term sites.

(Editor's Note: 2016 Ironically, not only did the BOR not allow long-term sites to be included in the bid process, they threw out the White's bid on a technicality without even reading it. The  BOR  then rejected all bids from the west shore resort owners and chose a single out-of-state company with little resort management background or sufficient resources, Pensus, to take over five of the resorts. That choice turned into a multi-year disaster for Lake Berryessa from which it has not yet recovered.)

According to the record of decision, "recreation was not a purpose of the project as originally authorized; nonetheless public visitation began almost immediately" after the lake came into being with the completion of Monticello Dam in 1957. The Bureau of Reclamation, in conjunction with Napa County, awarded seven concession contracts in 1958 and 1959 to manage recreation at the lake for the next 30 years. Resort contracts have been renewed and slightly altered in subsequent years.

Carol Kunze, an environmental advocate who heads Berryessa Trails and Conservation and has pushed for more trails and "passive" uses of the lake, expressed satisfaction with the decision.

"The most rewarding part is today — finally getting a decision that will allow the public to have access to the lake's entire shoreline," Kunze said. "The most difficult part was just the whole controversy. It seems like such a plain and simple issue: It's public land and the public should have access, but the status quo interests wanted to keep their sites."

Trailer owners weren't the only people dismayed by the bureau's break away from the status quo.

Sharyn Simmons, owner of Cucina Italiana restaurant, moved from Napa to the Berryessa Highlands subdivision five years ago. She said during the two-plus years she's run her lakeside business, trailer owners have formed the majority of her returning customers.

"It's the weekend people, the one-shot wonders, who come up here on the weekends and trash the place because it's not their own," Simmons said. "Why in the world would you ask the people who have been the stewards up here, living here year-round, and visiting every month or two months, to leave? We're talking second and third generations by now."

Simmons said she hopes the fight is not over. "My only hope is they keep it litigated for the next 10 years."


Rancho Monticello marina gas dock

Rancho Monticello Gas Dock and Restaurant


SrCtr Christmas


The Lake Berryessa Senior Center: 

A Community Resource for All Since 1984

by Peter Kilkus

Communities evolve because people who care make things happen. Betty Pedersen is one of those special people. When she and her close friend, Ruth Stiteri, took walks they would talk about what their Lake Berryessa community needed. In 1983 they realized that a Senior Center would be an important resource for many local residents, especially since everything around the lake closes down in winter, so they decided to start one.

They laid the groundwork in 1983, originally meeting with a talented group of people at Moskowite Corners, to create the bylaws and structure. Seventy people showed up for that original meeting! The membership age was set at 55 since they wanted members who were young enough to have energy and who realized that the Center would be an investment in their own future. The Senior Center opened in 1984 as has been a cornerstone of the community since then.

The Lake Berryessa Senior Center is a key community resource that offers a broad range of social activities and support services. And this energetic group of Berryessa residents is redefining the definition of senior, not only because you only have to be 50 to join, but because of their positive attitude towards community action. As with any volunteer organization, the more active people who join the more active things there’ll be to do.

You don’t have to be a “senior” to join the organization. Dues are just $20 a year for those 50 and older. The Senior Center is a self-supporting non-profit organization. They have regular events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, the annual Crab Feed, summer bbqs, and various fundraisers. Bingo is at 1:00PM until 4:00PM every Monday afternoon.

The Center is available to rent for special occasions. There is a minimal charge and a cleaning deposit. Call for details: 966-0206, 4380 Spanish Flat Loop Rd. In the past the Center has hosted weddings, receptions, memorials, and many community functions such as blood drives, flu shots, Bureau of Reclamation presentations and community meetings.

Maybe there should be a contest to see what new word can be used to replace “senior” in describing us (since I am a member). At one Board meeting I mentioned that I just don’t feel like a “senior” and Betty Pedersen, a co-founder of the Center 32 years ago, jumped right in with  “Neither do I!”  



The Resorts of Lake Berryessa: 2006 Version

Markley Cove Resort, at the south end of Lake Berryessa is the first resort on the way to the lake from Winters, California. It is only a few minutes by boat or car to Monticello Dam and offers a convenience store, food service, marina, boat and jet ski rentals, boat gasoline, bait, and fishing licenses, among others. 800-242-6287.

Pleasure Cove Marina offers a variety of overnight tent and RV camping, restaurant, marina, convenience store, and cabin and houseboat rentals. Nestled between the Blue Ridge and Cedar Roughs, just 45 minutes from Napa Valley, Lake Berryessa is an ideal location for your Forever Houseboat getaway. Mild temperatures in the summer make it perfect for water sports, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, or just simply sitting back and releasing the cares of the everyday. The grassy hills surrounding Lake Berryessa are dotted with oak and Manzanita and provide excellent opportunities for spotting eagles, hawks, deer, and even wild turkey. Up above, you may spot great blue heron, snow geese, and loons. 707-966-9606 (

Steele Park Resort is a year round resort with full accommodations for the family. Motel and cottages offer swimming pool and championship tennis courts  with spectacular views of the lake's shore. Harbor Cove, the hub of activity, has a  restaurant, bar, general store and full service marina, open from 7:00  a.m. 7 days a week, year round. The Boat House Restaurant & Bar offers a  spectacular view of the lake along with its tantalizing good food. Steele Park Resort also rents a patio boats and jet skis to explore the many coves along the lake's  shore. 800-522-2123. (

Spanish Flat Resort offers outstanding fishing, overnight camping and picnicking, as well as boat, jet ski and kayak rentals. Their cabins are equipped with a bunk-bed, a full-size bed, microwave, coffee pot, shower, toilet, refrigerator, sink, kitchen table and chairs, heater, and air conditioning. Each cabin is on the lakefront and has a deck facing the lake. Because of the warm water, hot summers, and close proximity to the population areas of Northern California, the lake has become a favorite water ski resort. The temperatures are warm enough to make water skiing comfortable most of the summer. In addition, the state stocks the lake with fish as part of the conservation program. Fishing for bass and trout is a popular pastime. 707-966-7700 (

Lake Berryessa Marina Resort is a magnificent setting for your next vacation! You will delight in the natural serenity of the area as you relax at one of their gorgeous waterfront sites.  From tubing and wake boarding, to fishing and jet skiing, there is something for everyone at Lake Berryessa Marina Resort. Barbecue the catch of the day on one of our grills. For the ultimate in camping fun, rent a houseboat, pontoon boat, jet ski, or ski boat. They have group facilities for your next reunion, rally or company retreat. Gasoline pumps and a dump station are available for your convenience. 707-966-2161 (

Rancho Monticello Resort is a family-oriented lake front destination for vacationers and water sport enthusiasts. The resort faces the main body of the lake, with the expansive east shore three miles directly across from the Resort. Curves in the shoreline create coves, and variances in the landscape and slopes. Essentially the resort is divided in two parts by a large rock outcropping, known as "Turtle Rock." At the southern-most end of the resort is the marina which includes a gas dock, market, cafe, 8-lane launch ramp, moorage, docks and a day park. There are boat slips for both short term and long term rental. The northern portion of the resort has a large area "Big Flat" with gentle slopes (less than 15%) most of which is devoted to RV, camping and open space. Events in the resort throughout the summer emphasize the warm and friendly atmosphere of Rancho Monticello Resort. 707-966-2188 (

Putah Creek Resort is located at the north end of Lake Berryessa. It stretches over fingers of oak-peppered land, giving this resort lots of accessible shoreline. Putah Creek Park has a restaurant & bar and offers 200 tent only sites and 55 RV only sites. Most sites are right on the water. The campsites have picnic tables and BBQ grills. The motel offers sleeping and kitchen units. Putah Creek Resort is the only resort that sells gasoline for automobiles. 707-966-0770.


Boat Repair Winter 2017



Berryessa Valley and the Town of Monticello Historical Photos and Videos from before Lake Berryessa covered it.

Berryessa Valley photo

Thanks to Carol Fitzpatrick for creating the Berryessa Valley Exhibit at the Spanish Flat Village Center described in the first video.


Click Photo For A Real Time Webcam View of Lake Berryessa



Read the Latest Print Edition Here.

LBNews Pg 8&1 Dec16
LBNews Pg 6&3 Dec16
LBNews Pg 6&3 Dec16
LBNews Pg 4&5 Dec16


Lake Berryessa History 2010

The Bureau of Reclamation has destroyed family recreation at Lake Berryessa for a generation of children. Here's an interview I did in 2010, three years after the interview below with Pat Monaghan and just after Pensus had been given the contract for 5 resorts. As we all know Pensus was subsequently kicked out in 2012.    

How Could the Government Have Done Something So Stupid?

Many people ask me about the history of the process that led to the present situation at Lake Berryessa. When I explain what happened most become incredulous and can't believe the government could have done something so stupid. "How could they have gotten away with that?" they exclaim.

Here's a 2007 TV interview with Pat Monaghan, cofounder of Task Force 7 at Lake Berryessa, to give you some historical insight. Those of you who remember Pete Lucero will recognize his description of what we called "The Big Lie" - which turned into the "Epic Fail".

Full lake level history 2015


Winters Express logo

The Winters Express


Lake Level Fifty Year History

***                       © Peter Kilkus 2016