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  1. #1
    PWCToday.com Is My Home Away From Home LisaLisa's Avatar
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    At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    By JENNIFER HUFFMAN, Register Business Writer
    Normally by this time of year, Rancho Monticello Resort at Lake Berryessa would be gearing up for months of family fun. Instead, owner Bob White is packing up and preparing to close shop. His contract to run the facility expires June 15.

    White is one of four lake concessionaires given deadlines from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to end operations and move out over the next three months. Lake Berryessa, which hosts an estimated 1.5 million visitors each year for boating, water skiing, camping and more, is in for a very different kind of summer.

    "The whole lake is in limbo," said White.

    The closures stem from a June 2006 decision by the Bureau ordering the removal of approximately 1,300 privately owned trailers from the seven lakeside resorts. All of the contracts to run the resorts, 50-year deals between the federal government and the concessionaires that expire over the next several months, were put up for bid.

    In April, federal authorities awarded Arizona-based Pensus Group the contracts to operate five concessions at the lakeshore. But as of this week, Pensus hasn't signed any contracts, leaving many resort owners wondering when, or if, new facilities will open.

    "Not only are we in limbo, so is the public," said White.

    Bureau of Reclamation officials are confident the deal with Pensus will be struck soon, and the lake will begin to take on new life with updated facilities and operations.

    "We're working very hard with Pensus to get a contract signed as soon as possible," said Pete Lucero, acting public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation in the mid-Pacific region. But Lucero was not optimistic about completing one by June 15.

    "The next (deadline) is July 13," he said. "We are hoping to hit that date to have a contract in place. We are trying to make this as smooth a transition as possible, but there are a lot of issues to deal with in a contract like this."

    Lucero said the Bureau sees a "bright future" for the lake, with a wider range of overnight amenities, access to the lakeshore and recreational opportunities.

    Jeremy Crotts, vice president with the Pensus Group in Arizona, said, "We are currently in negotiations with the BOR on that project and as a result are unable to comment on anything. We're hoping to have a contract settled as soon as possible."

    Uncertainty at the shore

    While the timing of the deal is uncertain, one thing is clear. Between the time when each resort closes and the new vendor takes over, "There will be no recreation within those concession areas," said Lucero. "If we don't have a contract in place there will be no one to operate the resorts."

    Without new contracts, visitors are unable to make reservations beyond the end dates of the present contracts for four out of the seven area resorts: Putah Creek, Rancho Monticello, Spanish Flat and the Berryessa Marina.

    "There may be some reduced level of overnight camping and RV sites because of the potential closure of the four westside resorts," said Lucero.

    "However, Reclamation is working on a plan to provide some expanded amenities at their own managed facilities at Oak Shores and Camp Berryessa as well as working with the three existing contractors (with) contracts that don't expire this summer Steele Park Resort, Markley Cove Resort and Pleasure Cove Resort to provide additional overnight recreational opportunities," he said.

    "We're really working to try and minimize the disruption by trying to provide additional services at other locations."

    At Rancho Monticello, by this time of the year White would have normally booked 12,000 visitor days or two-thirds of his summer season. But with his June 15 closure date, "We were only able to book a couple hundred," said White.

    White's afraid the new Pensus concessions will take years to develop. In the meantime, his resort is empty, "And it looks like a war zone," he said.

    Forced to remove the longstanding trailers and other improvements, only concrete pads, posts, stairs and patios leading to nowhere remain.

    "There are a lot of unanswered questions" about the handover, said White.

    He'd like to know who will pay for security for the property to prevent vandalism of his employee housing and other improvements after he moves out. Pensus was awarded the bid, he said, "but until they sign a contract with the Bureau they have no obligations."

    Lucero responded, "We are working on a strategy to provide some level of security for the property. It could include patrols, working with the existing concessionaires to provide their own security, or providing a security service. We need to determine what will fit best."

    White also expressed concern about his workers.

    "In the record of decision the Bureau promised preferences for current employees to be hired by the new (operators). But I have to remove all the employee housing," said White. "Which means the employees will go away."

    His biggest question is "When is (Pensus) going to sign?"

    White is also concerned that Pensus may delay signing a contract due to a lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of four current concessionaires.

    "We would like a smooth transition and are not getting one," said White.

    Lucero said unsigned contracts have "nothing to do" with the current resort owners' lawsuit in Washington, D.C., said Lucero.

    'People were not prepared'

    Rich Delaney, partner at Spanish Flat Resort, must shut down operations by July 13 and remove all his permanent facilities.

    "That is a monumental job," he said, referring to buildings, roads, parking lots and a sewer treatment plant. "We're scrambling around trying to answer the request," he said.

    Delaney was also wishing for a smoother handover. "I've never seen anything quite as unorganized," he said. "I would like to find our employees a job but at this point we don't even know there will be a new operator."

    Delaney, a partner in the resort since 1989, said normally by this time most summer reservations would have been booked, especially in the resort's travel trailer park.

    "But we've had to tell everyone to remove their trailers. It's pretty much a ghost town."

    Heavy moving equipment has displaced the trailers, many now in Dumpsters or carted away.

    "People were not prepared. Maybe they didn't really think it would come to this," said Delaney.

    "It's a fiasco," said Spanish Flat Resort partner Jim Kenney. "The deal with the new concession owner should have been resolved a year ago. These negotiations should have been done prior to the fact, not after the termination date of the lease," he said.

    A summer closure "screwed us," he said. With a number of new cabins now 23 total and 24 fishing tournaments planned, "This year would have been our best year," said Kenney. Instead, "We are down to 30 trailers, from 200 and a waiting list."

    If he hadn't faced closure, Kenney estimated $2.2 million in gross revenue for the year.

    Instead, the resort has cut off reservations as of July 13. After that, "We don't know what's going to go on."

    "Where else have you got a lake where you can go fishing, boating and camping, that's within 90 minutes of the Bay Area?" asked Kenney. "A lot of this is just an absolute waste."

    Lucero said the bureau is working to handle all the concerns of the departing concessionaires, while also setting the stage for a revitalized lakeshore. Things will come into focus, he said, when the contract with the new operator is signed.

    "Contractor-designees are coming in to make some major capital improvements and provide an expanded level of service and an unprecedented level of access to the general public," said Lucero. "That development will take place over the course of the next few years with development beginning almost as soon as we have contracts signed."

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  2. #2
    PWCToday.com Is My Home Away From Home MrSki's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Wow...what a mess. See why I don't live in Cali anymore?
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  3. #3
    PWCToday.com Is My Home Away From Home LisaLisa's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Yeah...and I'm about to bail as well. And not just because of access to water.

    Had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine last night. He's in the process of moving his practice to New Zealand and boy do most of the benefits outweight the negatives.

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  4. #4
    resident guru 800amsoil4u's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Thanks BLM. Great take away 1,300 privately owned trailers and displace people that have lived and vacation there for years and make them pay $8k+ to dispose of the trailer. They will will not give permits to people that have trailers with wheels on them to taken off the property. I feel sorry for the people that are retired and live there that have to come up with all of the $$ and now have to find a place to live. Now they will not see the monthly revenue from those people that pay for the spaces. Minimum of $400.00 per month for the lot the trailer is on @ 1,300 lots. $520,000.00 they are not going to see in revenue. Yea that is smart. The shore is over 160 miles and the resorts take 10 miles. Why can't the BOR use the 150 miles and develop it for camp grounds? Of course they do not want to do that, that would make sense. Lets take it from the people that already developed it and give the contract to someone else. UGH
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  5. #5
    PWCToday.com Is My Home Away From Home MrSki's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    The initial BLM deal for the resports is 50 years old and many trailers up there are 50+ years old themselves and pretty darn trashed. yes, there are some super nice doublwides too. It's a mixed bag.

    I read the article as the BLM taking the opportunity to extend the use of the lake with a new lease but make the new leasee clean up the resorts a little. New roads, stores, resteraunts, boat launches...I would speculate is all part of the negotiations.

    Sucks for the people being displaced right now...but probably better in the long run. Yes it could probably be handled much better than it is.
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  6. #6
    resident guru 800amsoil4u's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Quote Originally Posted by MrSki
    The initial BLM deal for the resports is 50 years old and many trailers up there are 50+ years old themselves and pretty darn trashed. yes, there are some super nice doublwides too. It's a mixed bag.

    I read the article as the BLM taking the opportunity to extend the use of the lake with a new lease but make the new leasee clean up the resorts a little. New roads, stores, resteraunts, boat launches...I would speculate is all part of the negotiations.

    Sucks for the people being displaced right now...but probably better in the long run. Yes it could probably be handled much better than it is.

    There are a lot of very nice places up there and there are some dumps also. Most are nice. What it comes down to is that they feel it is not fair for the people that have places there. They want to make it so anyone can use that spot. So what they do is make you rip down your place and they are going to make it where people can use to camp or use as a RV parking. It comes down to the have and the have nots. Just like on my lake Anderson here in Morgan Hill. The water district made people get rid of the docks. They said that it was not fair that they were not able to use my dock and it was a safety issue. What a bunch of BS. I told them if they bought a piece of property they could have their own dock. It is like me going to Lake Tahoe and getting mad at the person that has a lake house and a boat dock and wanting to use it and can't. BUY YOUR OWN. I can understand them wanting to make some more sites available to the public. But come on. To get rid of over 1,000+ places is BS. There is over 150 miles of shore line if they wanted to make more spots for camping. Steele Park Resort is very nice. Their lease is up next year. http://www.steelepark.com/ This place is clean. It even has dump outs, water and electric for the RV spaces. How much better can you get. Fuel on the water and a resturant.
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  7. #7
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Our fine govt at work again. The worst part is a lot of people will be out of work and a big company gets richer and charges more for camp sites.

    Bill

  8. #8
    Top Dog Duvers's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Quote Originally Posted by MrSki
    The initial BLM deal for the resports is 50 years old and many trailers up there are 50+ years old themselves and pretty darn trashed. yes, there are some super nice doublwides too. It's a mixed bag.

    I read the article as the BLM taking the opportunity to extend the use of the lake with a new lease but make the new leasee clean up the resorts a little. New roads, stores, resteraunts, boat launches...I would speculate is all part of the negotiations.

    Sucks for the people being displaced right now...but probably better in the long run. Yes it could probably be handled much better than it is.
    That's my impression as well. I think it will make it a lot better in the long run.

    As for the displaced people/trailers, that's the risk you take when you lease property. While they may have had the expectation of staying there forever, they certainly don't have "rights" to it.

  9. #9
    PWCToday.com Is My Home Away From Home MrSki's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Quote Originally Posted by Duvers
    Quote Originally Posted by MrSki
    The initial BLM deal for the resports is 50 years old and many trailers up there are 50+ years old themselves and pretty darn trashed. yes, there are some super nice doublwides too. It's a mixed bag.

    I read the article as the BLM taking the opportunity to extend the use of the lake with a new lease but make the new leasee clean up the resorts a little. New roads, stores, resteraunts, boat launches...I would speculate is all part of the negotiations.

    Sucks for the people being displaced right now...but probably better in the long run. Yes it could probably be handled much better than it is.
    That's my impression as well. I think it will make it a lot better in the long run.

    As for the displaced people/trailers, that's the risk you take when you lease property. While they may have had the expectation of staying there forever, they certainly don't have "rights" to it.
    I've lost contact with the 2 or 3 guys I knew that have/had trailers up there. Would be interesting to see what their contracts said.
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  10. #10
    PWCToday.com Is My Home Away From Home LisaLisa's Avatar
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    Re: At Berryessa, resorts begin to close, owners angry, future uncertain

    Here's an update from Peter Kilkus....it's sickening.

    Greetings,

    Here's some more news about the chaos being created at Lake Berryessa by the Bureau of Reclamation. See the video on KGO-TV at the link below. The video is much more compelling than the printed version below.

    Unfortunately, most people in Napa County have ignored their neighbors at the lake or are generally ignorant of the true nature of what's happening out here. Those of you who are resort owners, business owners, winery owners, or private property owners yourselves would never stand for something like this. Public Law 96-375 was written to prevent this kind of confiscation of private property by the government. See my further comments after the story below.

    ******************************
    http://abclocal.go.com/kgo /story?section=news/local&id =6216744#PTWidget0_Talkback _Bottom

    Some Lake Berryessa businesses get evicted
    Thursday, June 19, 2008 | 7:37 PM By Wayne Freedman

    LAKE BERRYESSA, CA (KGO) -- Folks who enjoy the popular Lake Berryessa vacation site in Napa County, are being forced to leave. The land is owned by the federal government, which is trying to make some money leasing to a higher bidder.

    This probably is not the summertime Lake Berryessa you remember. There are sections of the water, mostly empty and boat docks, not like they used to be. Not anymore at the Rancho Monticello Resort. For 50 years, Bob White's family leased the land from the Bureau of Reclamation, a lease he and wife Lucy lost to a corporate bidder from Arizona.

    For families that vacationed in trailers on plots of land, the troubles began months ago, when the bureau ordered the property cleared. Many were cheaper to knock down than to move.

    "They have taken away the lake. They want to take away the water," said Lucy White.

    But now that Bob White has lost his lease, it's not like he can just up and leave. There is still the question of what to do with 50 years worth of improvements to this land. The Bureau of Reclamations says wants him to take everything with him, including the concrete of the boat ramps.

    "What did you expect to receive for all of this improvements on the land?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman. "We expected to receive somewhere between $16 to $18 million," said Bob White. "You're getting?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman. "Zero," said Bob White.

    Pete Lucero, who runs this project for the Bureau of Reclamation could not talk on camera, but did defend his position on a statement that said: "Our new designee doesn't want anything. They intend to rebuild the entire resort."

    "They're trying to avoid paying for the infrastructure. They're hoping it's too expensive to take it out. And then the government can declare it abandoned," said Bob White.

    Meantime, there two suits against the Bureau of Reclamation remain pending in federal court, as it negotiates with the new franchisee and prepares to close other long standing resorts.

    At Lake Berryessa, this is shaping up to be one hot, angry summer.

    "We had an investment. We built a business. And whatever you have in life, it's against every American principle for them to do what they're doing," said Lucy White.

    ****************************** **********

    None of this had to happen this way.

    The BOR could have (and still can) extend the present contracts to allow use of the resorts for the rest of the summer. Why do they continue to deny this when it is part of their own Operation Manual: LND 04-01? See the actual policy on the Lake Berryessa News web site and here:

    ****************************** ***

    LND 04-01 Reclamation Manual: Directives and Standards
    Subject: Concessions Management by Reclamation1

    (159) 4/29/02 Page 6
    Supersedes (74) 4/3/98

    D. Contract Terms and Conditions. The following items should be specifically addressed in concession contracts:

    (2) Interim Operator. Reclamation may select an interim operator if a contract is not in place at the time the existing contract expires or is terminated. Interim contracts will generally follow the existing contract provisions; however, contract terms and conditions must be modified to reflect current policies and directives and standards. Reclamation may select the existing concessionaire as the interim operator if the existing concessionaire is performing in a satisfactory manner. The interim operation will not exceed 2 years. A new contract must be awarded as expeditiously as possible.

    ****************************** ****

    There were other bids, specifically by the Lago Group (present resort owners and local Napa business owners), which would have allowed a smooth transition and provided everything else the BOR wanted in its proposal. Negotiating a new contract with this local group would have been much simpler. Why did they reject it?

    There was an alternative plan, Local Stakeholders' Preferred Alternative Plan for Lake Berryessa: LBVSPT A+, which would have allowed a smooth transition and the same increased facilities as in the present bids. See for yourself on the Lake Berryessa News web site.

    There was another alternative plan, Resort Operators' Plan (ROP), which would have allowed a smooth transition and the same increased facilities as in the present bids. See the highlights for yourself on the Lake Berryessa News web site.

    And once again, Public Law 96-375, was written to protect the private property of the resort owners, not to allow the government to confiscate it to make the entry costs lower for a new bidder. Read it yourself on the Lake Berryessa News web site.

    If you've been to Rancho Monticello, or especially Steele Park, there's no way a reasonable individual would think the facilities have no value and should be destroyed down to and below the ground!

    Peter Kilkus
    Napa, CA

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