Lake Berryessa MPA is here!

The MPA is here. A Win for Lake Berryessa and Napa County!

by Peter Kilkus

The long-awaited Managing Partner Agreement (MPA) between Napa County and the Bureau of Reclamation has been completed. It will be on the agenda for approval at the Supervisors meeting on Tuesday March 17, 2020, 9:00 A.M.

"County Executive Officer requests approval of and authorization for the Chair to sign a Managing Partner Agreement with the United States Bureau of Reclamation regarding concession management at Lake Berryessa effective November 1, 2020."


Coincidentally, the 2020 Chair of the Board is Supervisor Diane Dillon. She will get to sign this agreement for Napa County. Some historical perspective on the process: I met Supervisor Dillon when she was first elected to the Board 20 years ago. I and some others saw the looming disaster of the Bureau of Reclamation's proposed Visitor Services Plan and asked her for her assistance in preventing it. The rest is history, as they say. Now comes the future.

The formal title of the document is: 

Managing Agreement Number 20-LC-20-2623: Between the United States of America and Napa County for the Administration, Operation, Maintenance and Development of Recreation Uses and Facilities at Lake Berryessa Area Project Lands (137 pages, 4.4 MB PDF)

This is the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Pensus contract which led to a disastrous 10 year "hole in history" and the destruction of a thriving recreational asset and the loss of this asset to a generation of families, friends, and their children.

Thanks to the Napa Board of Supervisors, especially Alfredo Pedroza and Diane Dillon (our Lake Berryessa supervisors) for their strong support since 2016, and to Molly Ratigan, Deputy County Executive Officer, for her hard work during the long negotiations.


Down Memory Lane to the Path of Future Revitalization

Below is an excerpt from Napa County's Federal Legislative & Policy Platform 2017:

PRIORITY 1: Napa Specific

Lake Berryessa Recreation: Support efforts to ease guidance and regulations supporting Napa County's efforts to assume management authority of the Lake Berryessa Recreation Area under a managing partner agreement.

Issue: Lake Berryessa residents and businesses in Napa County depend on the sound management of Lake Berryessa's recreational facilities (located on federal land) to attract visitors and support the local economy. Under Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) management, residents and businesses have suffered a declining number of visitors over a period of years that has resulted in loss of income and jobs.

The Board believes that new management of the federally-held Lake Berryessa recreational areas is needed to develop and implement a redevelopment plan that will encourage investment in and attract new businesses to the Lake Berryessa area. The Board is exploring the assuming of responsibilities of managing one or more of the recreational areas at Lake Berryessa under a managing partner agreement.

Action: Support efforts to enact legislation, regulations and guidance that ease the burden and encourage Napa County to enter into a managing partner agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation for management of the Lake Berryessa Recreational Area.


Below is the formal presentation and recommendation for approval

TO:  Board of Supervisors, March 17, 2020

FROM:  Minh Tran - County Executive Officer

REPORT BY:  Molly Rattigan, Deputy County Executive Officer 

SUBJECT:  Lake Berryessa Managing Partner Agreement

RECOMMENDATION: County Executive Officer requests approval of and authorization for the Chair to sign a Managing Partner Agreement with the United States Bureau of Reclamation regarding concession management at Lake Berryessa effective November 1, 2020.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Staff has finalized a Managing Partner Agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation regarding concession management at Lake Berryessa. The agreement is attached. Staff is recommending approval of and authorization for the Chair to sign the agreement.

The Bureau of Reclamation has been unable to identify concessionaires to operate resort and concession services at Lake Berryessa. Napa County staff has reached an agreement that will allow the County the opportunity to manage concessions at three of the resort areas.

The proposed action is not a project as defined by 14 California Code of Regulations 15378 (State CEQA Guidelines) and therefore CEQA is not applicable.


On June 21, 2016, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to enter into negotiations for a Managing Partner Agreement between the County and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). BOR has the ability to enter into a Managing Partner Agreement with a non-federal partner for concession management. 

Under a Managing Partner Agreement, the responsibility to develop and manage public recreation areas is transferred to the partner agency. While there are federal policies and guidelines on how management agreements can be structured, items within the agreement are generally negotiable. The responsibilities and requirements of each agency are outlined in the agreement and, while BOR would retain oversight, the partner agency would assume responsibility for bidding and awarding third-party agreements to provide concession-related services and facilities.

Staff began negotiations with the BOR and quickly learned that it was difficult to negotiate a fair and accurate agreement when the type and interest of concessions are unknown. On December 6, 2016, the Board of Supervisors entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Bureau of Reclamation to gauge the commercial interest in Lake Berryessa and determine if the types and scope of recreation opportunities are of interest to potential developers and viable under federal, state and local policies and laws. 

Under this MOU, the County, at its own expense and authority, developed a Request for Information/Interest (RFII) in Lake Berryessa concessions. The results of the RFII will determine whether the County can identify viable concessions partners within the uses identified in the Lake Berryessa Visitor Services Plan and negotiate the Managing Partner Agreement based on the interest generated. 

Entering into this MOU did not commit the County or the BOR to a Managing Partner Agreement. Also on December 6, 2016, the Chair signed an agreement with Ragatz Sedgwick Realty (now Ragatz Realty).

Ragatz Realty was selected through a Request for Proposal process for its knowledge and experience in developing hotels, resorts and other recreational opportunities worldwide. 

Under this agreement, Ragatz Realty was contracted to identify concession opportunities at Lake Berryessa. On May 9, 2017, the Board of Supervisors amended this agreement to include additional work including "Phase II" whereby the consultant would assist the County with marketing the opportunity to potential vendors. The Board of Supervisors received an initial report from Ragatz Realty on August 1, 2017.

On October 16, 2018 and May 14, 2019, the the Board of Supervisors received a report from staff and provided direction on a possible phasing plans and continued negotiations with Reclamation. Staff presented to the Board of Supervisors on February 11, 2020 that negotiations were almost complete and a document was expected to be presented in March 2020.

Staff has completed negotiations and the Bureau of Reclamation has approved the attached agreement. Under the proposed agreement, Napa County would assume management of the Spanish Flat, Monticello Shores and Steele Park resort areas effective November 1, 2020. The County of Napa also retains the ability to assume management of four additional areas based on future discussions. Additionally, if the County is unable to identify concessionaires to successfully operate at Lake Berryessa, the County has the ability to opt-out of the agreement.

Staff will present the key areas of the document at the March 17 Supervisors Meeting and next steps to begin implementation by November 1, 2020. Staff recommends approval of the attached agreement.                       © Peter Kilkus 2018