What Happened at Lake Berryessa?


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 Editorials

Stop resort owners from polluting lake: February 27, 2001

You can help chart future of Lake Berryessa: July 22, 2003

Berryessa: Put it back in public hands: February 23, 2006

Berryessa's future brightens: June 15, 2006

Clock ticking at Lake Berryessa: April 12, 2009

The local’s view of fiasco at the lake: April 15, 2009

Restoring trust at Berryessa: April 17, 2009

Bureau hopes to return Berryessa to its heyday: April 10, 2011

Inching forward at Lake Berryessa: March 16, 2013

Lake Berryessa History Through Napa Register Articles

Reclamation considers revamping Berryessa shoreline: February 25, 2001

Officials plan makeover for Lake Berryessa: August 12, 2003

Lake Berryessa public hearings begin: November 13, 2003

Report says Berryessa better off without trailers: November 9, 2003

Battle over Berryessa: Lake's history full of federal-local tensions: December 11, 2003

Battle over Berryessa: Trailer owners offer own blueprint for future: December 11, 2003

Crowd tells feds not to move Berryessa trailers: January 22, 2004

Residents debate Berryessa's future: January 11, 2004

Lake Berryessa trailer owners hire lobbyists: July 26, 2004

Mobile home park residents challenge feds over lake economy: December 12, 2004

Berryessa trailers must go: June 6, 2006

Rancho Monticello, a resort with eye toward the future: June 12, 2006

Trailers ousted from lake: June 7, 2006

On the edge at Lake Berryessa: March 18, 2007

Bidding heats up on control of resorts: December 6, 2007

Feds identify likely winners to run Berryessa resorts: April 2, 2008

At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain: June 10, 2008

Big changes at Berryessa: July 27, 2008

Remake at the lake: January 1, 2009

Salvaging summer at the lake: March 23, 2009

Bureau names top bidder for Berryessa resorts: January 14, 2010

Deal signed for six Berryessa resorts: April 29, 2010

Feds terminate Pensus resort contract: December 7, 2012

Dueling Napa Register Letters To The Editor

Return Lake Berryessa to the taxpayers: March 2, 2001

Don’t Blame Resorts For Sewage Problems: March 5, 2001

What to do with Lake Berryessa? November 12, 2001

Don't attack Berryessa resorts: December 4, 2001

Mobile home owners want to make Berryessa a better place: December 12, 2001

Give public access to Berryessa: February 20, 2002

Berryessa doesn't need motor boats: Febrary 7, 2002

Trailer ownership at Lake Berryessa defended: March 1, 2002

Bring Berryessa back to nature: March 3, 2003

Return Berryessa to natural state: March 18, 2003

Reintroduce Berryessa to California: March 27, 2003

Beware federal Berryessa plan: April 3, 2003 150

Ask for what you want at Berryessa: April 16, 2003

Don't let feds destroy Berryessa homes: April 24, 2003

Don't forget the good at Berryessa: August 20, 2003

Lake plan should keep mobile homes: August 21, 2003

Trailer sewage is exaggerated (and already resolved): August 24, 2003

Lakeside trailers are eyesores: September 16, 2003

Private access to Berryessa is wrong: September 16, 2003

Private trailers - Get off our land: September, 2003

What to look for in Berryessa plan: September 7, 2003

Return Berryessa to the public: December 15, 2003

Work together on Lake Berryessa: December 8, 2003

A critical view of Kunze: January 5, 2004

Keep Berryessa mobile homes: January 16, 2004

Open access to Berryessa: April 22, 2004

Drop enviro-elitism at Lake Berryessa: March 13, 2005

Berryessa economics don't add up: March 27, 2005

Will there be a future for Lake Berryessa? March 30, 2005

Still time to save the lake: March 10, 2005

Lake Berryessa misconceptions: March 11, 2005

Public has plenty of lake access: March 30, 2005

Bureau working to improve Berryessa: May 10, 2005

Get the facts on Lake Berryessa: May 27, 2005

Sierra Club, politicians ruining life at the lake: November 19, 2005

Transparency at the lake by Cong. Thompson: November 23, 2005

Majority of residents and businesses oppose BOR plan: November 26, 2005

Don't let the Bureau wreck Berryessa; September 19, 2006

Give Berryessa folks consideration: January 27, 2007

Resorts are backbone of lake: January 27, 2007

Lake mobile home owners just want equal treatment: February 1, 2007

The right move at Berryessa: February 1, 2007

Children ask “Why'd they take our lake?” June 28, 2007

Preparing for a new experience at the lake: July 6, 2007

Bureau of Reclamation decision is unjust, divisive: July 17, 2007

Bureau owes us all answers on Berryessa: November 13, 2008

Lake fiasco proves government fails people: March 24, 2009

The mess at the lake: March 28, 2009

Flaws in Reclamation’s plans for the lake: April 24, 2009

A bait and switch at Lake Berryessa: May 27, 2009

A tremendous loss at the lake: July 31, 2009

Stop the insanity at Berryessa: September 24, 2009

Anyone interested in the core historical Bureau of Reclamation documents for this process can find them at:



pkilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2017