Thursday, October 11, 2007

California's Lake Berryessa Offers Bounty of Beauty

FAIRFIELD, CA - Vince Sarish sat on a cooler along the shores of Lake Berryessa this spring getting in some fishing before the weekend crowds arrived.

Sarish lives in Los Angeles. When he comes to Northern California to visit in-laws, he sometimes chooses Lake Berryessa as his place for recreation. He quickly ticked off some reasons.

“The amount fish that are in it and the natural beauty a lot of wildlife, deer, turkey,” he said as he lounged. He wore shorts and a T-shirt on a day already warm at 9:30 a.m.

Monticello Dam, completed 50 years ago, created Lake Berryessa. Suddenly, the region's residents had 30 square miles of water and more than 100 miles of shoreline as their playground.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation built Monticello Dam to provide Solano County cities and farms with water. As a by-product, the entire Bay Area and Sacramento area got a recreation hot spot.

About 1.4 million people visit Lake Berryessa annually, according to the bureau. Yet the agency can envision still more people going there. After all, the Folsom and Shasta reservoirs draw more than 2 million annually.

“Pete” Lucero, chief of the Lake Berryessa recreation resource division said, “I think there's a lot of potential here that may be untapped. We don't know what that is yet.”

Lake Berryessa recreation is in a state of flux. The Bureau of Reclamation leases land to seven resorts. It wants changes at these resorts and is evicting 1,300 trailers and mobile homes. Instead, it wants more campsites, RV areas, lodges and other services for people who stay a day or two.

This transition should take place over the next few years. The bureau could award the new resort contracts by the end of the year, Lucero said.
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