Floating Native American Casino (FloNAC) is coming to Lake Berryessa, but when? (Updated April 1, 2022)
Now that Sun Lake Berryessa, LLC has won the tender to redevelop three resorts at Lake Berryessa with a wide range of amenities and accommodations, the subject of the long-delayed Floating Native American Casino (FloNAC) is proposed first seen in 2010 and resurfaced in 2016, has again become a topic of interest. The commercial synergy between Sun Lake Berryessa and FloNAC is evident. Sun provides nearby accommodations, recreation, food services, electric shuttle boat services, and logistics support under contract with FloNAC; FloNAC receives more customers and revenue without large additional monetary investment. A bit of history is in order here.
Part 1 of this saga began in 2010 when, in a stealthy lawsuit with profound long-term consequences, a consortium of Native American tribes forced the Bureau of Reclamation to allow them to build a floating casino on the surface waters of the Lake Berryessa. The April 1, 2010 project announcement included the timing and legal basis for this development.
Native American lawyer, Hadge Uefuuld, said the reclamation opened the door for this action during the bidding process for the Lake Berryessa concession in 2009 by formally defining the “land surface” as categorically different of the “surface of the water” under the control of the federal government. For example, Reclamation has made the following written public statements: “Private houseboats will be permitted at Lake Berryessa as they do not occupy waterfront space…”, and “houseboat rental and mooring has been considered a” preferred service” at Lake Berryessa, and is the only service that is able to engage in “exclusive use” of the lake without penalty.
During the development of the Lake Berryessa Visitor Services Plan, Reclamation redefined the long-term use of public facilities by U.S. citizens as “exclusive use.” According to the federal government, “Exclusive use is any use that excludes other appropriate public recreational uses or users for extended periods of time. Exclusive use as defined by Reclamation includes, but is not limited to, boat docks, cabins, trailers, manufactured or mobile homes, structures, roads or amenities that are determined by Reclamation to be for exclusive use.
“Despite the last interested party in this definition,” retorted Attorney Uefuuld, “no mention was made in the definition, and they might have, of a ban on houseboats. Reasonable private use of the public assets is a long-standing American principle, although it generally only applies to private corporations Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that private corporations can legally be considered private citizens with all the rights that implies, it follows that citizens can now be considered as societies with all the rights that this implies.
The recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations are persons with the rights of individual U.S. citizens has added significant weight to the arguments of Native American tribes. The five-judge majority achieved the result it sought — one that dramatically expands legal rights and political power for corporations — in trying to redefine the basic reality. Since Native Americans have historically had their basic reality redefined by the federal government in disastrous ways, they quickly took advantage of this decision.
The settlement reached with Reclamation allowing the construction of a floating casino on Lake Berryessa includes certain concessions (no pun intended) regarding its ownership and construction. The floating casino itself will not be a single structure – it will consist of approximately twenty or more individual, but connected, private houseboats, each belonging to a separate Native American tribe. This avoids any legal issues limiting the size of the casino. Several private houseboat owners at Markley Coved have applied to become corporations under the Supreme Court’s ruling to lease their houseboats to themselves and provide casino support services while enjoying the incredible financial and taxes previously reserved for corporations.
Since Lake Berryessa is already an official FAA seaplane base (FAA ID: E20), casino access for high rollers is guaranteed. Seaplane ferry service is already being developed from regional airports such as Sacramento, Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Las Vegas itself.
Part 2 of this saga continued into 2016. Although the project has been delayed since then, the failure of the Bureau of Reclamation to make progress since 2010 or receive successful proposals in its appeals process Tenders for the resort’s redevelopment in 2016 brought the project back under consideration.
Native American organizers and their supporters had planned to reveal the next stage of this development on April 1, 2017 – seven years after the initial proposal was published. Native American attorney, Hedge Uefuuld, said this year fulfills the “7th generation” principle for the floating casino project.
The Native American principle says that in every decision, whether personal, governmental or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future. Due to the speed of modern life and the impact of social media on decision-making, Native Americans are now substituting the word “year” for “generation”. So 2017, seven years later, was the spiritual target for the casino’s completion. Coincidentally, 2017 was the year the political momentum for Napa County taking over the management of resorts from the Bureau of Reclamation peaked – led by the Lake Berryessa News.
Local businesses and residents have been thrilled with the prospect of this potentially very positive impact on Lake Berryessa’s economy, especially now that Napa County itself has taken over management of the lake under a partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation. All lake development was managed by Napa County from 1958 to 1974. It was under Napa’s direction that resorts were developed, mobile home units were leased to provide ongoing revenue to support day-use facilities, and the lake has become a top recreational destination for the entire Bay Area and beyond. This could be the new future legacy of the Native American community since they were the first residents of the Berryessa Valley. So here we are in 2022, five years later – 12 years behind the times. Finally come full circle, anyone?