Markley Cove Resort Owners Win The  Bid For Their Own Resort

One interesting element of this announcement is that Reclamation has extended the contract period to 40 years! Is this the first step in migrating towards a smarter contract than they have offered in the past? No word yet - or maybe ever - as to who the other bidders were. Notice also that the Markley Cove name has been changed from Resort to Marina.


Reclamation Announces Selected Bidder for 

Markley Cove Marina at Lake Berryessa

The Bureau of Reclamation announces that FX10 International Inc. is the selected bidder for the Markley Cove Marina business opportunity at Lake Berryessa.

The principal shareholders in FX10 are John and Linda Frazier, who currently operate Markley Cove under an interim contract with Reclamation.

The business opportunity is to operate a marina and associated facilities for a term of 30 years, with a possible 10-year extension. The business opportunity was advertised on May 13, 2016, and the bid period closed on July 19.

After a bid review by a panel of staff with experience in managing concessions and recreation on public lands, the bid from FX10 was determined to best meet the needs of Reclamation and the public in the provision of required and authorized recreational services and facilities.

Reclamation’s Central California Area Office (CCAO) will be initiating negotiations with FX10 with the intention of having a new concession contract signed and in effect prior to January 1, 2017.


Measure Z: The Zombie Tax Attacks

Vote NO on Measure Z!

By Peter Kilkus

It may not be World War Z, starring Brad Pitt, where a zombie outbreak erupts in metropolitan areas around the world, but Napa County is having its own County Conflict Z with a Zombie Sales Tax outbreak.

The Napa Regional Park and Open Space District (RPOSD) is a government agency that was created under intense controversy in 2006. Local voters created the district by approving Measure I which was passed by only 2,500 votes of 29,000 cast: Yes - 15,791, 54.35%; No - 13,261, 45.65% - hardly a mandate.

Napa County residents currently pay 8 cents in sales tax for each local dollar spent. Napa County voters on November 8 will decide whether to approve Measure Z - a quarter-cent sales tax to raise about $8 million annually to fund the RPOSD. This new and regressive Zombie tax would have to pass by a two-thirds vote.

In the June 7 election, Napa County voters failed to pass a quarter-cent sales tax that would have gone to the county general fund, but had been targeted for a new jail and children’s programs. This sales tax needed only a majority vote to pass, but it  lost with 55 percent “no” votes.

How can any reasonable person believe this new Measure Z sales tax, which requires 66.7% to pass, is more important or more likely to pass than the June 7 attempt? It seems to be a waste of time and resources to even try.

When seeking a sales tax hike, proponents depict the impact as being small on taxpayers. But this is a regressive tax, i.e, a tax that takes a larger percentage of income from low-income earners than from high-income earners. For people on limited incomes, these taxes build up and become a burden. And most Napa residents will never benefit from Measure Z or the Regional Park and Open Space District.

The controversy over Measure I in 2006 was passionate. The arguments against Measure I are clearly still relevant today against Measure Z.

The Napa Register was against it: “The proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot - Measure I - is flawed in fundamental ways...The Board of Supervisors needs to address the parks issue, but not by creating an ill-defined new bureaucracy run by a separate set of elected officials. We urge a no vote on Measure I.”

Supervisor Bill Dodd was against it and even predicted the present results:

“If Measure I passes, a new layer of governmental bureaucracy will be formed, run by five newly elected representatives. This special district will have no greater power to create access to open space than the county has today, and will have no funds that the county does not have today. In my opinion, the citizens of Napa County will end up paying more taxes if Measure I passes, as this special district will have an unstable source of funding for management and operations functions. Sooner or later, this new layer of government will create a new tax or fee to fund their program.”

One of the most cogent arguments against Measure I was provided by George Bacich:

“It is also interesting that the new district is authorized and apparently plans to contract with Napa County to provide the parks and open space services. That means the county will give the district the money, then the district will contract with the county to provide the services, and will pay the money back to the county in exchange for those services.

Under this arrangement, the county will be making the decisions, doing the work, and paying the bills, just as if the new district did not exist. So why, then, do we need this shell agency, engaged in a shell game, passing our money back and forth under the table between itself and the county?

Our limited parks money should spent on regular parks and athletic fields everyone can enjoy, rather than on remote hiking trails enjoyed only by a few. The Board of Supervisors should be in charge of the money, balancing everyone’s interests, rather than the special interest group members who will comprise and control the new district’s board of directors.”

Time Passes and Now...

The facts are that, ten years later, the predictions have proven accurate. It’s taken that long, but the predicted Zombie (a dead body reanimated through various methods) Tax has awakened and is aimlessly shuffling towards Napa County voters.

The RPOSD, with its policy of questionable land acquisitions and trails-at-any-cost philosophy, has done little of compelling benefit for Napa County residents, and most of what they have accomplished could have been done by a Parks and Open Space Department with in the Napa County governing structure.

John Woodbury, present General Manager of the District, helped create Measure I. Woodbury was the county’s principal planner for parks in 2006. In fact, John Woodbury is still the present Parks & Open Space Program Manager for Napa County, but is contracted to the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District as General Manager for the District. Over the years the Board has generally consisted of open space proponents seemingly obsessed from the beginning with land acquisition - land that is geographically remote from most Napa residents. And Board members have usually been re-elected without opposition - an indication of how below-the-radar this organization operates.

Some think that voting for parks and open space is like voting for “Motherhood and Apple Pie.” Unfortunately, as in most of these conflicts, some people find the truth too confining and resort to strained “Applehood and Mother Pie” statements instead. Statements that sound good on the surface, but hide a bad taste in the ingredients. Get ready for more of the same from the Measure Z supporters.

Acquisition, Acquisition, Acquisition

In a parody of the old real estate meme, location, location, location, the newly-formed RPOSD embarked on an acquisition policy at odds with providing accessible parks for residents. It makes no sense to acquire inaccessible land to create wilderness land when the private sector has already done such for FREE. Much of the massive open space lands in Napa County are in private ownership and would be impossible or extremely costly to “develop”. Napa County is already one of the most protected areas in the state, if not the country.

In 1968, the Napa County Board of Supervisors passed a landmark zoning ordinance that created the first Agricultural Preserve in the United States.  This ordinance reflected a commitment to agriculture as the “highest and best use” of most of the land outside of the local towns and the city of Napa.

The ordinance dictated that the only commercial activity allowed in these areas was agriculture and, furthermore, set minimum lot sizes that prevented further subdivision of parcels, limiting the potential for development:  a 40-acre minimum in the Agricultural Preserve (AP) and 160-acre minimum in the Agricultural Watershed (AW). 

With Napa County's strict land use controls and already abundant Agricultural Preserve and Agricultural Watershed open space lands, what taxpayer wants to part with more of their hard-earned money to pay an ever-increasing and regressive sales tax to buy land that they will never ever use?

When public agencies acquire even more public lands those lands become a greater public liability. When land is acquired in remote areas of Napa County without park rangers and other support infrastructure it is likely to require the costly involvement of emergency responders.

Berryessa Estates “Open Space”

An example of the RPOSD’s obsession with acquiring land of little value to the average Napa County citizen came early on in its existence - up in the remote Berryessa Estates.

RPOSD proposed acquiring some “free” Bureau of Land Management property above the Berryessa Estates. The proposal was supported by typical applehood and mother pie statements which deserves closer scrutiny.

RPOSD claimed that they wanted to “preserve” Lake Berryessa Estates open space lands through obtaining ownership and assuming management of 160 acres of open space land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They also said that this property would provide permanent open space primarily benefiting the residents of Lake Berryessa Estates as well as potentially serving as the northern trailhead for a future trail between this area and Pope Canyon. They said that “Obtaining this property from the BLM would assure that the property is not sold for development.”

What they neglected to point out was that this land, high above the Berryessa Estates, would be very difficult and expensive to “develop.” Under Napa County Agricultural Watershed zoning laws only rural parcels of 160 acres minimum are allowed. This property, if anyone were willing to buy it, could only have a single residence. Do we now call building a single residence on a legal 160 acre lot in a remote rural area “development”? What does it mean to “preserve” land that is already nearly unusable in any practical development sense in a County whose land is the most protected in the state if not the country?

The RPOSD comment that this land would be “open space primarily benefiting the residents of Lake Berryessa Estates”, is accurate - because almost no one can be expected to drive 30 miles from the Napa Valley to hike in hot scrub brush. The Berryessa Estates residents were then, and still are, most concerned with paying their property taxes and surviving their high water/sewer rates. They already live in a wilderness area with many opportunities for hiking - including that BLM public parcel.

Berryessa Vista

Another example of a questionable early RPOSD acquisition was the Berryessa Vista property.

The property, three parcels known collectively as Berryessa Vista, is located between lands owned by two federal agencies - the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Land Management. It is also land-locked, i.e., surrounded by private property and accessible only by water across from the Capell Public Launch ramp, so an easement would be needed from one of the private property owners surrounding the land to be able to “develop” the land. Sometimes people do have legal access over federal lands, but not in this case.

The primary market for landlocked properties is adjacent landowners who want more open space, or who package the land with an access easement across their existing property and then sell the land for development. And then there are people who will buy anything on the speculation that some day it could be developed and sold at a profit.

The owners of the Berryessa Vista properties were in that latter category. Three Napa physicians, who were the original speculators, had purchased the property as an “investment”. They probably realized that their investment was not going to pay off. They “donated” two-thirds of the land to the Land Trust of Napa Valley in 2003. The Land Trust then purchased the rest of the property for $113,000.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to buy the land from the Land Trust, through the RPOSD, for up to $127,000 in Prop. 12 funds from the state parks bond act of 2000. The RPOSD bought the property from the Land Trust. The Land Trust then used those proceeds to buy land at the north end of Napa County.

So if you follow the money, Napa County bailed out some land speculators who probably never could have easily “developed” the land profitably under Napa’s no-growth zoning laws. Three parcels meant only three dwellings requiring easements across adjacent private property.

The Napa Land Trust received a “donation” of private land and paid $113,000 to the owners - who also received tax benefits from their “donation”. Napa County then used public bond funds to buy the land from the Land Trust. The Land Trust then hustled north to acquire more land for itself.

And the result? The RPOSD now owns some nearly inaccessible property they call a “park” but which has been used by very few people in the last ten years. The Land Trust did offer some kayak/hike outings for awhile, but no one ever showed up.

Moore Creek Park

The Napa County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in April, 2008 to put about $1.65 million toward buying 673 acres of open space just north of Lake Hennessey. The Moore Creek Open Space Park would cost $2.8 million plus another $500,000 for improvements. Half the money would come from the county and half would come from a $1.65 million grant from the State Coastal Conservancy.

The private property also includes two “modest” homes and a swimming pool. I’ve been there. It’s quite nice in an old 1950’s country vacation style way. The original asking price for the land was about $4.9 million before the real estate market took a dive. It was more recently assessed at $3 million. But once again it appears that the RPOSD bailed out private property owners for modest public gain.

Moore Creek is in the middle of nowhere - miles from where average Napa residents would take their families to play. The park provides more than five miles of trails for hikers, equestrians and mountain bicyclists. Friends of mine have bicycled there and observed that it’s nice but nothing special.

But more telling is the insight it gives to the goals of the RPOSD itself. This is not a family park organization. It is in the business of acquiring mostly inaccessible land to create “wilderness” areas. This is clear from a 2008 article in the Napa Register:

“With the county’s help, Woodbury said the public could use the acquisition as the beginning of an effort to gain a substantial wilderness area that could extend all the way to Mt. St. Helena. Dave Finigan, President of the Napa County Parks and Open Space District, in a letter to the supervisors said that acquiring the site is a “critical step” for completing the Napa Crest Trail system - a recreational trail that circumnavigates the hills ringing Napa Valley.”

In the original RPOSD proposal, advocates said that a formal district is needed to get matching funds from other organizations. Potentially trying to buy something for $3M will only cost the County $1.5 M as in the Moore Creek example above. But it’s still real County money being spent, money that might be better used elsewhere. In fact, Moore Creek Park was opposed by Supervisors Dodd and Moskowite because it would tap into a fund created to buy Skyline Park, a beautiful park close to downtown Napa which the County now leases from the State of California.

Reality Check Time

The RPOSD wants to TAX us and give them $8 million per year! From the pockets of Napa workers, visitors, families, students, elderly citizens! From the budgets of County government and public agencies doing real work important to everyone in the County!


How many voters actually know what the RPOSD is and does? How many people have hiked the Berryessa Estates “open space”? How many people have boated to and climbed to the top of Berryessa Vista? How many people actually use the Moore Creek Park every year? How many people hike the Napa Crest Trail system?

The Lake Berryessa Connection

A burning question to many of us trying to revitalize a battered Lake Berryessa region (and I include the Berryessa Estates and Pope Valley) is why this Zombie Tax is even being considered at all when one of the most important recreational areas in Napa County, Lake Berryessa, has been so neglected by the County. We’d like to have $8 million to play with - even a couple of hundred thousand would help!

The Lake Berryessa News, for several months, has been advocating that the federal government turn over the ownership and management of Lake Berryessa to Napa County. More and more people are supporting this proposal. Napa County officials have been meeting with Reclamation representatives to discuss the possibility of running the Lake Berryessa Recreation Areas under a Managing Partner Agreement (MPA).

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 or interest in a place like Lake Berryessa.

Lake Berryessa is not another “lake in the country”. It is a major economic, social, and recreation resource in an urban-proximate setting whose value to Napa County and the State of California is being utterly wasted. I believe a special Lake Berryessa-only commission should be created reporting directly to the Napa Board of Supervisors.

I propose a Lake Berryessa Recreation Area Commission consisting of nine to eleven members, appointed by and reporting directly to the Board of Supervisors, with the professional expertise and the competence needed to make the Lake Berryessa recreation areas successful and profitable tourist and family recreation destinations. And the Commission should be funded by the Transient Occupancy Tax - until the new resorts are self-sustaining and can provide their own contribution to management costs and to the Transient Occupancy Tax.

Shoot the Zombie

We all know how to kill a zombie, you shoot it in the head.

Vote NO on Measure Z

(A downloadable PDF of this article is available at : Zombie Tax Attack)


Land no photo 091216


Reflections on the Bizarre 2016 Election

We often hear commentators or guests on talk shows say things like “American voters are not stupid”, or “the (pick an interest group) are not stupid”. However, evidence suggests that there are a lot of stupid people spread throughout the general population, and they seem to have become especially visible during this election.

The following article excerpts, although obviously written as satire in 1987, seems to be particularly relevant in 2016. Satire is defined as the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

We’ve often heard the aphorism that “You can’t fix stupid”. Studies confirm the statement basically because stupid people are too stupid to know they are stupid. This is known in psychological research as the Dunning–Kruger effect in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly self-assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.

Their research also suggests corollaries: high-ability individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

This inherent dichotomy in personal self-awareness makes communication, especially in political discourse which requires complex reasoning, difficult at best, and impossible, due to emotional biases, unreasoned anger, and self-pity, at worst.

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

by Carlo M. Cipolla, Prof. of Economics, UC Berkeley


Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid people in circulation.

At first, the statement sounds trivial, vague and horribly ungenerous. No matter how high are one's estimates of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently startled by the fact that: a) people whom one had once judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid; b) day after day, with unceasing monotony, one is harassed in one's activities by stupid individuals who appear unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and  the most improbable moments.


I firmly believe stupidity is an indiscriminate privilege of all human groups and is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion. One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid person is born stupid by an act of Providence. This fact is scientifically expressed by the Second Basic Law with states that:

The probability that a person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

The evidence that education has nothing to do with the probability of being stupid was provided by experiments carried on in a large number of universities in five major groups, namely the blue-collar workers, the white collar employees, the students, the administrators and the professors.


A stupid person is a person who caused losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

When confronted for the first time with the Third Basic Law, rational people instinctively react with feelings of skepticism and incredulity. The fact is that reasonable people have difficulty in conceiving and understanding unreasonable behavior.

Our daily life is mostly made of cases in which we lose money and/or time and/or energy and/or appetite, cheerfulness and good health because of the improbable action of some preposterous creature who has nothing to gain and indeed gains nothing from causing us embarrassment, difficulties or harm. Nobody knows, understands or can possibly explain why that preposterous creature does what he does. In fact there is no explanation - or better, there is only one explanation: the person in question is stupid.


One is tempted to believe that a stupid person will only do harm to himself, but this is confusing stupidity with helplessness. On occasion one is tempted to associate oneself with a stupid individuals in order to use them for one's own schemes - as in contemporary politics.

Such maneuver cannot but have disastrous effects because : a) it is based on a complete misunderstanding of the essential nature of stupidity and; b) it gives the stupid person added scope for the exercise of his gifts.

One may hope to outmaneuver the stupid, in politics or other endeavors, and, up to a point, one may actually do so. But because of the erratic behavior of the stupid, one cannot foresee all the stupid's actions and reactions and before long one will be pulverized by the unpredictable moves of the stupid partner.

This is clearly summarized in the Fourth Basic Law which states that:

Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be costly mistake.


A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

In a society which performs poorly, the stupid members of the society are allowed by the other members to become more active and take more actions, and there is a change in the composition of the non-stupid section with a relative decline of non-stupid populations.

Such negative shift in the numbers of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the stupid fraction and makes decline a certainty. And the country goes to Hell.


Essentially stupid people are dangerous and damaging because reasonable people find it difficult to imagine and understand unreasonable behavior.

A stupid creature will harass you for no reason, for no advantage, without any plan or scheme and at the most improbable times and places. You have no rational way of telling if and when and how and why the stupid creature attacks. When confronted with a stupid individual you are completely at his mercy.

Because the stupid person's actions do not conform to the rules of rationality, it follows that one is generally caught by surprise by the attack, and even when one becomes aware of the attack, one cannot organize a rational defense because the attack itself lacks any rational structure.


Amber lots combo 09156


Chinook Salmon in Lower Putah Creek 

By Ken W. Davis

It’s true, in late 2015 we had more than 800 Chinook salmon spawning in Lower Putah Creek. The third straight year with a significant increase in spawning fish created many questions and several theories for the success. A state fisheries biologist stood near the Putah Diversion Dam and asked me, “What changed? Why all the salmon in the last few years?” I went through the list of theories for him.

Some say that that Delta is full of stray salmon that don’t know which river is home. Large numbers of fingerlings were released in the Delta and Putah Creek looked interesting to them when they return as adults. Up the river they swam.  

I tend to discount that idea because stray salmon have been in the Sacramento River systems for years and prior to 2013, we had very few salmon visit the Winters area. Don’t misunderstand me, if stray salmon visit Winters, they are welcome. 

The second idea credits the Putah Creek Accord that required pulse-flows of water for the increase in salmon. Okay, I can’t discount that the added water signature helps signal the fish to enter the creek. That said, we have had the required pulse-flows since 2000 with no great increase in salmon until December of 2013. 

Then there is my theory - it’s relatively simple: Restoration. That’s right, if the salmon do not have a place to spawn, then an increase in water or millions of stray salmon would make little difference toward a successful salmon run. I can consider that it’s all three components with restoration being the final key for success. 

The Putah Creek salmon dilemma started for me in December 2004 when I was conducting New Zealand mudsnail surveys near Interstate-505.  I encountered several salmon trying to spawn. They were unsuccessful. 

The loose gravel needed for the female salmon to successfully lay her eggs was non-existent and / or buried by a condition of hardened sediment call “embeddedness” or in its severe form - cementation. As I watched from behind an Alder tree, the salmon laid her eggs on hardened gravel. 

The yellowish-orange eggs immediately rolled downstream and were eaten by other fish. The adult salmon soon withered and died. What a waste. Several years prior they left freshwater as small salmon and survived in the Pacific Ocean for three years. Unfortunately, they returned and attempted to spawn in creek conditions that were unacceptable.  That broken cycle had to change. 

Soon after that event, the Putah Creek Streamkeeper (Rich Marovich) and the Solano County Water Agency started constructing a series of W-shaped weirs (boulders) that were designed to increase water velocity, get more oxygen in the water, and develop safe harbor for native fish. 

Those weirs now attract and provide protection for trout, other resident fish, adult salmon, and juvenile salmon. Other restoration projects include the very successful Winters Putah Creek Park (unfinished), the Dry Creek realignment, and a scarification project to loosen the cemented gravel beds.

Since 2013 we have used proprietary equipment to capture the spawning salmon on subsurface video. I have documented that hundreds of salmon selected the restored areas of Putah Creek for spawning. 

We monitor the areas they select for egg laying and strategize what we can do to improve their success.   This has proven to me that the salmon seem to know better than all the pundits about where they want to spawn.

Many of the citizens of Winters and surrounding regions are excited about the ongoing success of the restoration projects and the apparent return of the Chinook Salmon to Putah Creek. To celebrate and share the information, an event has been planned for Saturday November 5th 2016 in downtown Winters and nearby Rotary Park. 

Salmon festival

Join us for great food, music and entertaining events. For more information, just Google the “Winters Salmon Festival,” We are on Facebook and the City of Winters website.   

Regarding my opinions about the Putah Creek salmon, if we don’t have a great run this year. I guess I’ll have a few bad days of remorse. If we have a good salmon return you will be able to see them on guided tours being set up near the Winters Car Bridge. Just remember, no fishing. 

The salmon are protected in all waterways other than the major river systems. Please join us for the Winters Salmon Festival and sign up for email notifications that will alert you when the salmon arrive in Putah Creek.


Ken Davis is an aquatic biologist and wildlife photojournalist who has done work at Lake Berryessa. He  has significant expertise in designing invasive species survey programs, aquatic invertebrate biology and taxonomy, plankton collection and identification, Eurasian mussel survey techniques and identification,  New Zealand Mudsnail identification, and intermittent waterway biology.

 Ken has been a professional photographer for more than 30 years. He has expertise in photographing sensitive species, endangered species, nesting species, sub-surface imaging and documentary photography. His images have been published in more than 4000 different periodicals, newsletters, brochures, encyclopedias and websites. He is considered to be one of the best aquatic invertebrate photographers in the business.

Visit his fascinating web site at: www.creekman.com


Click Photo For A Real Time Webcam View of Lake Berryessa



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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".


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The Winters Express


Lake Level Fifty Year History

Full lake level history 2015


pkilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2016