"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 2 YEARS and 7 MONTHS were lost!

At the end of 2012 the total holes in history count stood at 


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 2 YEARS and 7 MONTHS lost.

7 YEARS and 1 MONTH lost so far!

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 10 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.”


Bureau of Reclamation Releases Final Environmental Assessment (EA)

For Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas Development

 The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized the documents that evaluate the installation of infrastructure that would make permanent recreational development possible at five sites around Lake Berryessa. A Final Environmental Assessment released, Wednesday, Jan. 10 authorizes conceptual site plans at the following recreation areas, from north to south: Putah Canyon, Monticello Shores, Berryessa Point, Spanish Flat and Steele Canyon.

The environmental assessment considered the effects of installing facilities such as wastewater treatment and disposal, electrical distribution and access such as roads and parking areas required for development of permanent recreation facilities not currently offered at these sites. The facilities considered were based on the core, essential infrastructure needed to support the management direction in the Lake Berryessa Reservoir Area Management Plan and subsequent Visitor Services Plan. Reclamation considered various levels of development during its planning process and refined the conceptual site plans based on a market assessment, a financial feasibility evaluation and input received from the public during the planning process.

Future concessionaires would have the opportunity to utilize this analysis and streamline the approval process

Reclamation also released an important report known as the FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) which eliminates the need for major Environmental Impact studies under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This FONSI report is so critical to removing future bureaucratic roadblocks of the type that stalled Pensus’ efforts to redevelop the resorts that I will reproduce it in full below for your review. After the long history of the Battle for Berryessa I documented above, Reason 5 was ironically amusing.


Finding of No Significant Impact


Based on the attached EA for the Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas Development, Reclamation finds that the Proposed Action is not a major federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. The EA was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended; the Council on Environmental Quality’s Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (40 Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] Parts 1500-1508); and Department of the Interior regulations (43 CFR Part 46). Effects on several environmental resources were examined and found to be absent or minor. That effects analysis is provided in the attached EA, and the analysis in the EA is hereby incorporated by reference.

The EA concluded that installing the infrastructure necessary for redevelopment of the RAs will not have a significant effect on the human environment. Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not required and will not be prepared for this Proposed Action.

Following are the reasons why the impacts of the Proposed Action are not significant:

1. The Proposed Action will not significantly affect public health or safety (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(2)).

2. The Proposed Action will not significantly affect natural resources and unique geographical characteristics such as historic or cultural resources; parks, recreation, and refuge lands; wilderness areas; wild or scenic rivers; national natural landmarks; sole or principal drinking water aquifers; prime farmlands; floodplains (EO 11988); national monuments; migratory birds; and other ecologically significant or critical areas (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(3) and 43 CFR 46.215(b)).

3. The Proposed Action is not likely to result in effects to the human environment that are highly uncertain or involve unique or unknown risks (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(5)).

4. The Proposed Action will neither establish a precedent for future actions with significant effects nor represent a decision in principle about a future consideration (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(6)).

5. Effects of the Proposed Action have no potential to be considered highly controversial (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(4)).

6. The Proposed Action will not have significant cumulative impacts (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(7)).

7. The Proposed Action has no potential to affect historic properties (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(8)).

8. The Proposed Action and environmental commitments herein will not affect listed or proposed threatened or endangered species (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(9)). In addition, the Proposed Action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle as per the biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 2, 2016.

9. The Proposed Action will not violate federal, state, tribal or local law or requirements imposed for the protection of the environment (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(10)).

10. The Proposed Action will not affect any Indian Trust Assets (512 DM 2, Policy Memorandum dated December 15, 1993), as none are known to exist at the RAs.

11. Implementing the Proposed Action will not disproportionately affect minorities or low income populations and communities (EO 12898).

12. The Proposed Action will not limit access to, and ceremonial use of, Indian sacred sites on Federal lands by Indian religious practitioners or significantly adversely affect the physical integrity of such sacred sites (EO 13007 and 512 DM 3). No sacred sites are known to exist at the RAs.

Based on the Final EA for the Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas Development, Reclamation finds that the Proposed Action is not a major federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment.

The Final EA was prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and is available at 



Who Will Run The New Lake Berryessa Resorts?

The Lake Berryessa News, since March, 2016, has been advocating that the federal government turn over the ownership and management of Lake Berryessa to Napa County. Significant, if slow, progress has been made in that direction during 2017. Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation are negotiating a Managing Partner Agreement under which Napa County will manage several of the Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas.

Napa County has released a Request For Information and Interest (RFII) seeking interested recreation management companies who would potentially become concession managers under contract to the County. The target date for selection of concession contractors and completion of negotiations is Summer, 2018.

But what governance structure will be created by Napa County to actually manage the future revitalization of Lake Berryessa?

There have been recent  proposals for some management involvement by the existing Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District (RPOSD). The Lake Berryessa News strongly opposes any involvement of the RPOSD in the Lake Berryessa management structure.

The Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas are neither “parks” nor “open spaces”. The RPOSD is a small agency with few resources and no technical expertise in managing large, full service recreation facilities. It’s basic goal is preservation, not recreation.

A major negative of the RPOSD is that its Board is elected directly by Napa County voters. The rural areas of Napa County are already at a political disadvantage since most of the county’s voters are in urban areas with little knowledge of, nor interest in, Lake Berryessa.

Lake Berryessa Recreation Commission

Lake Berryessa is not another “lake in the country”. It is a major economic, social, and recreation resource in an urban-proximate setting with significant value to Napa County. 

I believe a special Lake Berryessa-only commission should be created reporting directly to the Napa County Board of Supervisors. This was the original, successful form of governance when Napa County managed the lake from 1958 until 1975.

I propose a Lake Berryessa Recreation Area Commission consisting of nine to eleven members with the professional expertise and the competence needed to make the Lake Berryessa recreation areas successful and profitable family recreation destinations.

Members could include the Directors of the Napa County Public Works and Planning Departments, members of the Board Directors of Visit Napa Valley - Napa’s premier tourism association, other Napa recreation and hospitality management professionals, finance and contract experts, sustainability design consultants, and business owners and residents of the Lake Berryessa region who have prior personal and professional experience related to the former profitable resorts.


Lake Berreyssa RFII Addendum No. 3 – Submitted Questions and Answers January 11, 2018 (Click here for full response.)

Available Concession Areas Request for Information and Interest

RFII No. CEO091701    

Napa County published 42 Questions and Answers with a list of 28 attachments as part of the RFII schedule. The future proposed schedule is:

January 31, 2018: RFII Submittals Due by 2:00 pm pst

April, 2018: MPA Authorization

May, 2018: RFP Release

June, 2018: RFP Due

Summer/Fall 2018: Concessionaire Selection and Negotiations


Third Event of the Pasote Tequila & Berryessa Bass 

Tournaments Circuit: January 7, 2018

THANKS to the 42 Teams that fished this event hosted out of Markley Cove. Great job again everyone! All teams verified with CF Numbers! We had a foggy but safe blast off with four flights, including 4 youth teams!

The morning was foggy and cool, but the air warmed to 50 degrees by weigh-in. The sun never came out or broke through the clouds and the temperature dropped. The lake has been fishing well lately with a jig bite deep and shallow! Some teams had reported that they had a tough day, and most teams had a limit. Water temps are still in the low 50’s with a good amount of water still in the lake with more coming. Teams reported catching their fish on Glide Baits, Huddleston’s, Jigs, Drop Shot, and A-rig fishing in the main lake!

In the Youth Division, First Place with 14.29lbs went to Joe and Jack Mariani. In Second Place, James & Keith Gannon weighed a sack of 10.07lbs. In Third Place, Dario Fernandez and Gavin Cohen weighed in a 7.55lbs bag.

First Place went to Billy Hines with a solid sack that weighed 21.33lbs and with a 6.14lb kicker for 1st Place Big Fish. Second Place went to Zach Ploeger and Brandon Hansen who brought in a sack that weighed 18.24lbs. Third Place went to Ron ‘PJ’ Bruggeman Jr. and John Pearl with a 5.54 kicker for 2nd Place Big Fish that anchored a sack that weighed 17.51lbs.

With a Fourth Place finish, Mike Nichelini and Carl Keller weighed in 16.72lbs. In Fifth Place, a sack of 16.56lbs was weighed in by Ryan Wong and Brad Amodeo. Sixth Place went to Chris Franks and Wade Patten with a sack of 15.68lbs. Seventh Place went to Phil Garcia and Roy Desmangles Jr. with 14.64lbs. Matt Hamilton and Scott Smith weighed in 14.60lbs for Eighth Place. Ninth Place went to Aaron Britt and Chelsea Britt with a sack of 14.54lbs. Tenth Place went to Joe and Jack Mariani with a sack of 14.29 lbs.

Thanks to all the teams for supporting the 2017-2018 Pasote Tequila & Berryessa Bass Tournaments Circuit! Looking forward to an exciting 2017 – 2018 Season!!! Again Thanks to our Sponsor’s: Pasote Tequila, P-Line, Ficelle’s Bistro, Tomat’s Restaurant, Kasoku Teriyaki & More, Dobyns Rods, Battery Systems, Pisani’s Automotive, Hi’s Tackle Box, 3Badge.com, Markley Cove, and CE Ranch, Buckhorn Restaurant, Todd’s Custom Rod Art, Hisui, A-Rig-Wrap, Buckhorn Grill, Pro Cure, Bay Tackle, Putah Creek Café, LEBCO, and new sponsor Gone Fishing Marine!

See you all on February 4, 2018 (Sunday)! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Email or call office phone if you have any questions (530)794-6085. Thanks for the Support!!! Website should be updated shortly! berryessabass.weebly.com


Winners edited


Lake Level as of 1/11/18

Recent rains stabilized the lake level last week at 430 feet - 10 feet below Glory Hole. The lake had dropped about 5 inches during December. Now the lake has begun to rise - up 7 inches this week to 430.62 feet - 9.38 feet below Glory Hole.

Last week’s rainfall of 3.1 inches brings this season’s rainfall total to 6.51 inches. Last year at this time the lake was at 416.3 feet (23.7 feet below Glory Hole) and the rainfall total was at 17.11 inches. 

Climate experts say it’s way too early to sound the alarm about a new drought. Most of Northern California’s reservoirs, which are critical to keeping water flowing to cities and farms across the state during spring, summer and fall, are in good shape because of last winter’s record-breaking rain and snow.


January, 2018

LBNews Pg 8&1 Jan18

Click above to download this issue…


Welcome to the best map of Lake Berryessa you’ll ever find!

Click on the map to see a larger version.

Click here to download a pdf copy.

1 Lake Map Base 082317


Lake Berryessa Fills and Glory Hole Spills: The Video History

This amazing series of Lake Berryessa News Drone videos by Evan Kilkus documents the 45 foot rise of Lake Berryessa in 2017.



Full lake level history 2015
Lake Levels 2006 to 031217 edited-1



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.




1958 - 2018

by Peter Kilkus

How Could the Government Have Done Something So Stupid?

Download a PDF of the first 180 pages of the book here....



Without THE LAKE BERRYESSA NEWS there would be no Lake Berryessa News…and finally there would be no definitive history of what happened at Lake Berryessa. Having participated directly for more than twenty years as an advocate for the lake in the fiasco that was the Bureau of Reclamation’s Visitor Services Plan, its farcical but tragic outcome, and the process of rebuilding, I have very strong views of the causes and results - supported by facts and data which were mostly obfuscated by the proponents of the destruction of the lake’s residential and business community.

The Bureau of Reclamation and their supporters destroyed family recreation at Lake Berryessa for a generation of families, children, and friends. 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.

The goal of this book is to provide the history and the context within which such an incredibly destructive course of action took place.

The initial timeline shows a condensed history of the process. The next section tells the story through the eyes of Lake Berryessa News articles. With the permission of the Napa Register, a parallel history is presented through contemporaneous editorials, articles, and letters to the editor from the Napa Register.

This book is not a traditional academic exercise in historical exposition. Academic historians define history as presenting facts without expressing any opinion or analysis of the events whereas memories are comprised of emotions that can have a great influence on the perception of an actual event. Critical historians live by the old saying of "there are two sides to every story and then there is the truth."

I’m more interested in the narrative approach to defining this history. Almost two decades have passed since this story began, and Lake Berryessa history has been created with every day of that twenty years.

This book is the raw, as-it-happened, unfiltered picture of what many of us lived through. It is organized chronologically; focused on a single coherent story; primarily descriptive but also analytical; primarily concerned with people but also the abstract circumstances in which they find themselves. To me a big part of the fascination with any history is trying to discover what was going on inside people's heads in the past, and what it was like to live in that past.

The future is finally looking brighter for Lake Berryessa. History continues to unfold.

Peter Kilkus, Lake Beryessa, 2018


Table Of Contents

Lake Berryessa History Timeline

How It All Began: The Origins of the “Big Lie”

Will History Repeat Itself In Reverse? What Happened in 1975?

Notice of Intent: Solano Project--Lake Berryessa; Napa, California

The “Big Lie” Continues: Task Force 7 Protests Reclamation’s Unjustified Negative Propaganda

The Facts Fight Back: What You Need to Know About the Battle for Berryessa

Local Businesses Fight Back: Chamber of Commerce Critique of Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Residents Fight Back: More Than 900 Unleash Scorn on Reclamation Plan

The Perversiopn of Public Law 96-375: Demolition Hardball by the Bureau of Reclamation

Reclamation Defends Unjust Requirement to Demolish ALL Existing Facilities At Lake Berryessa

The Pensus Years: The Lake Berryessa News View

Pensus: The Short Story That Was Actually A Fantasy

Pensus Signs Berryessa Contract – Begins Facilities Development – Announces Resort Openings

Springtime at Lake Berryessa: Pensus in Bloom?

They’re Off Like a Herd of Turtles! Bureaucracy at Berryessa

Lake Berryessa: When Do Past Memories Actually Become “HISTORY”?

Goodbye 2011: Another Year of Process Without Progress! Will 2012 Be Any Better?

A Lake Berryessa Midsummer Night’s Dream (With Apologies to William Shakespeare)

Applehood and Mother Pie! What’s Right, What’s Wrong, and Why

Catch-22: The Bureaucratic Double Bind Theory in Practice

Seasons, Cycles, and Radical Change: Chaos Theory - Lake Berryessa Style

Floundering About at Lake Berryessa (This is not a fishing story.)

SNAFU, FUBAR and BOHICA: Deciphering Berryessa’s Ancient Rock Sculpture at Steele Park

Feds Final Folly: The Destruction of Steele Park - Public Law 96-375’s Unintended Consequence

A Modest Radical Proposal: Transfer Management of Lake Berryessa to Napa County

A Path Forward To Revitalize Lake Berryessa: Fire The Feds!

Open Letter to the Federal Government: Get Out of Lake Berryessa!

Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation: Working Together to Rebuild Lake Berryessa?

Will 2017 Be Lake Berryessa's Lucky Year?

Milestone Achieved! A Positive Report on the Potential Future Rebirth of Lake Berryessa!

The Future of Lake Berryessa Looks Brighter, But The Sun Also Rises A Bit Slowly

Napa County Releases Lake Berryessa Request For Information & Interest

Lake Berryessa History Through Napa Register Articles    

Lake Berryessa History Through Napa Register Editorials

Dueling Napa Register Letters To The Editor 


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.        

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".


Some Interesting Past Stories

Reclamation Releases Final Environmental Assessment (EA) For Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas Development

"Holes In History" at Lake Berryessa: Simple Incompetence, Fervent Ignorance, Malicious Arrogance

Who Will Run The New Lake Berryessa Resorts?

2017: The Year In Review Through Lake Berryessa News Headlines

Christmas Calls To Action For The Survival 

Of The Human Race

The Great Lake Berryessa (Atlas) Fire of 2017

Atlas Fire Timeline From The Berryessa Highlands

What Is That Red Stuff Falling From The Sky?

Circle Oaks Fire - The Great Escape

Lake Berryessa Boater Outreach Program: Summer 2017

Download full report pdf here...

Lake Berryessa 1971: Controversy Begins (Oakland Tribune)

My First Fishing Trip on Lake Berryessa

The Destruction of Steele Park Resort

Analysis of the Creation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument - the Dumbest National Monument in the United States

Napa County Wildfire Awareness Resources

Lake Berryessa History: The Summer of Love (1967) versus The Summers of Chaos (1998-1999) 

Exciting New Game Fishing Opportunity at Lake Berryessa

Rattlesnakes: Friend or Enemy – or just a primal fear?


Special Publications

Final Ragatz Report (75MB PDF)

Ragatz Summary Recommendations (75 KB PDF)


Conspiracy Theory Or Automatic Pilot: The Economic Roots Of Environmental Destruction        

By Peter F. Kilkus 

Download PDF of this report (2 MB)


The Amazing Foods of Chef Neiman Marxist

Chef Neiman Marxist French rev1


Winters Express logo

The Winters Express


pkilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2017