Raise the Dam, Raise the Hole, Lower the Hole, Cork the Hole?

Raise the Dam, Raise the Hole, Lower the Hole, Cork the Hole?

The following story summarizes the various proposals for controlling the level of Lake Berryessa so that it can fulfill its various, sometimes competing, goals.

History of a Rumor: Monticello Dam - Tear it down and build it bigger?

The rumor of raising Monticello Dam has been around for decades. Where did this rumor start and why does it pop up every now and again? According to the Solano County Water Agency, CalFed, a collaboration among 25 state and federal agencies, did a “brainstorming” survey many years go of every potential future water project in northern California. Although raising Monticello Dam made the original list of possible projects, after practical criteria such as cost, safety, flooding adjacent property, were applied to screen the list down to real opportunities, raising the dam was dropped from the list. It has never been discussed seriously since then. It is NOT in any plan and never will be.

But there is another potential source to this rumor, and it was a much more ambitious project than just raising the dam. According to “The Solano Water Story” published by the Solano Irrigation District, banner headlines in California's newspapers in September, 1963 announced Governor Edmund G. Brown's startling new state water plan in which Berryessa would have a major role. The $3.7 billion plan included 35 dams, 70 miles of tunnels, 10 pumping plants, and 15 powerplants. The timetable called for start-up in 1976 and completion about 2020.

According to the plan, the still-young, 304-foot high Monticello Dam would he removed, rather than letting it remain as an underwater barrier. It would he replaced with a 650-foot high earth and rockfill dam a mile downstream from the concrete arch dam. The new reservoir would be three times larger than Lake Berryessa, with 10 times its capacity or 16 million acre-feet (compared with Shasta's 4.5 million acre-feet). The enlarged lake would extend into Pope Valley almost as far as Aetna Springs in Napa County and into Capell Valley, taking nearly 18,000 acres of agricultural and grazing land out of production.

Recently Bureau of Wrecklamation officials announced that, after decades of rumors, Monticello Dam will finally be raised 10 feet as part of their redevelopment plan for Lake Berryessa. Napa County signed away most of its original water rights to the lake and now Solano County is being pressured by Budweiser to supply more water to its brewery.

To protect sensitive wildlife habitat, the BOR will build a 15 foot tall dike around the shoreline. The Sierra Club, which originally agreed to help fund a 165 mile trail around the lake, agrees that if the dike is built it should become the “trail around the lake”: a win-win solution.

Per Congressman Mike Thompson, since the dike will be funded at taxpayer expense it must be a multi-use trail, and will be wide enough for hikers, bikers, horses, motorcycles and ATV’s to share. Special launch ramps will be built at the resorts for high water access. Several “put-ins” for kayaks will be spaced around the lake with the newly-designed “Kayak Katapults” for rapid launching of non-motorized watercraft.

Although the 2006 Record of Decision designated that the Big Island Lagoon become a non-motorized area, LakeBerryessaHistoryBuffs.com will present several historical re-enactments of hydroplane races and water ski competitions through the Big Island Lagoon as part of anniversary celebrations during each summer.

However, the Sierra Club also proposed an alternative plan to drain the lake completely and rebuild the Town of Monticello as affordable housing for Napa County. The Sierra Club believes this would be the simplest solution to eliminating the legal problems surrounding the BOR’s fiasco with the resort contracts – just get rid of the lake and create a mega-trail amusement park.

The Bureau of Reclamation wishes to make everyone aware that their alleged “destruction of Lake Berryessa” was nothing of the sort. Despite protests by the Lake Berryessa Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and residents, Reclamation claims that their elimination of resorts and launch ramps was only a clever way to limit lake usage so that they can proceed with building the dike without interference from those pesky visitors.

Dam & construction sign


Raise Glory Hole to Retain More Water?

A simpler approach to storing more water in Lake Berryessa would be to raise Glory Hole itself by installing movable gates that could be raised and lowered as necessary to impound more water during the rainy season. Raising Glory Hole by 5 feet to 445’ would increase Lake Berryessa storage by approximately 100,000 acre-feet without significantly affecting facilities along the shoreline. Although the highest the lake level has ever reached was 446.7 feet in 1983, and it has often exceeded 440 feet. According to the Solano County Water Agency, a review of the historical data shows that the level does not exceed 440 feet often enough to justify the expense of installing this type of control device on Glory Hole, much less justifying raising the dam itself. The lake level has reached or exceeded Glory Hole only 25 times in 60 years.

UFO Berryessa

Glory Hole to be Lowered to Attract More Tourists?

The alteration to the Glory Hole depicted in this Bill Scholer cartoon is part of the latest plan for enhancing the tourist draw for Lake Berryessa. As part of the Renaissance Lake Berryessa project, the rim of the Glory Hole (aka Morning Glory Spillway) would be lowered several feet so that the lake would overflow more often. This would enhance the Glory Hole as a tourist attraction to the benefit of the local economy.

2017’s excitement as Lake Berryessa filled and Glory Hole spilled, brought many new visitors and created noticeable additional business activity in the Lake Berryessa region and the City of Winters.

Much of this activity was due to the constant excitement created by Lake Berryessa News reporting, especially the Lake Berryessa News Drone videos which received literally millions of views on YouTube and was reported around the world. Our video was picked up by the National Geographic and that post is now at more than 13,500,000 views!

Glory Hole Lowering

Glory Hole Corked - The Final Solution

Solano County Water Agency Introduces the CORK Water Saver

There has been a consistent rumor over the years that there is a plan to raise Monticello Dam. It never happened and never will. A simpler approach to storing more water in Lake Berryessa would be to raise Glory Hole itself by installing movable gates that could be raised and lowered as necessary to impound more water during the rainy season.

However, sources tell the Lake Berryessa News that the Solano County Water Agency, in cooperation with University of Lake Berryessa engineers, has developed a simpler alternative - the Circular Output Restrictor Kit - easier to use and more in keeping with the wine country vibe of the area. The Lake Berryessa News has obtained a photo of the new device which may be introduced on April 1.

Champagne cork in Glory Hole SCWA edited-1

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2020