Wine train stimulus project called into question

December 8, 2009 6:52:15 PM PST
Three Bay Area projects funded by federal stimulus money are being called into question. Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, and Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, have included them on a list of 100 projects they call "wasted, mismanaged, or silly and shortsighted."

They cite the $2.2 million being spent for water recycling at Sharp Park golf course in Pacifica, which is being threatened with closure, and a similar project at Lone Tree Golf Course in Antioch.

They are also calling into question the $54 million they say is going to the Napa Valley Wine Train.

"This is about highlighting the inefficiency of a wasteful stimulus program," Coburn said.

Coburn and McCain listed the Napa Valley Wine Train as an example of wasteful spending in their new report titled Stimulus Checkup. The report claims that $54 million of stimulus money is going directly into flood protection for the wine train.

It is a claim Napa's Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson disputes.

"The wine train would continue to operate with or without the flood control project, this merely allows the flood project to be completed," Thompson said.

In all, Napa received $99 million in stimulus money. Two-thirds will go to reconfiguring the area around the wine train, but flood protection officials contend the larger effort focuses on a six mile stretch of the Napa River.

"We're not doing anything to protect the train in any way, we're just getting the train out of the way so we can give the protection to the downtown area, the residents and businesses closest to the river," Napa Flood Protection District spokesperson Barry Martin said.

The idea is to avoid a repeat of the floods of early 2006 that caused more than $115 million in damage.

Rather than have so much stimulus money going to that area around the wine train, some locals say they would rather see at least some of it channeled to Napa Creek, which routinely overflows its banks and has cause some of Napa's worst flooding in recent years.

Lori Nuss owns a small winery on Vallejo Street. It is a part of town that has had severe flooding in the past, directly from the creek, not the river.

"I think the money should go into the flood program down here, to finish the work they started many years ago," Nuss said.

Thanks to local pressure, the Army Corps of Engineers did move up the timetable on the cleanup of Napa Creek, but it still has not been done while the work near the wine train pushes ahead.


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