Townsfolk in Napa say Sen. John McCain of Arizona has uncorked sour information about their wine town in a new report on alleged waste of federal stimulus dollars.

McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma came out with a report listing 100 projects that raised questions about "silly and shortsighted" federal spending.

The Napa Valley Wine Train, which ferries tourists about, was listed at No. 11. "While some major U.S. cities have still not been fully protected from the possibility of catastrophic flooding, engineers are hard at work to relocate the Napa Wine Train to prevent just that," the report said.

The sarcastic description of a Napa project to prevent flooding is "flatly wrong," said Barry Martin, public information officer for the Napa River Flood Control Project.

Fox News hosts and personality Glenn Beck, Martin said, went on to mock the wine train as an example of vintage government waste.

"You can't unring the bell for people once an impression gets out," Martin said, although Napa wine and city representatives are trying.

The real story, Martin said, is that Napa is involved in a nine-year project to protect the city from floodwater. That means relocating tracks on which the wine train travels, elevating or building several new bridges and reshaping channels from the Napa River.

The $54 million in stimulus money to move the tracks is necessary, Martin said, before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can excavate new channels to divert water. "It's not as if the wine train is benefiting from this, except for not being flooded like everyone else," Martin said.

A portion of track is owned by the wine train, Martin said, noting the train is legally a public utility and the tracks are used to move freight as well as wine tasters.

No one in McCain's offices in Washington and Arizona could be reached for comment.

Wine train representative Melodie Hilton said she couldn't get McCain on the phone to complain, so she sent a letter wishing him a Merry Christmas and inviting him to Napa, as well as explaining the wine train's position on the matter.

But Hilton also chided him: "It must be difficult to talk to everyone that wants to bend your ear. But, that is exactly what I was calling about: No one at the Napa Valley Wine Train received a call from you or your office researching the Stimulus Checkup that you just released.

"With wrong information," Hilton wrote, "this report becomes a detriment to us and the American public, and not the righteous instrument it was meant to be."

In a recent broadcast, Beck referred to the wine train after telling viewers he would make their heads "explode" by explaining to them how the "uber-, uber-rich" were going to get richer.

He stood in front of a blackboard with a list of projects receiving stimulus money. The "California wine train" was second on the list.

"It's lovely this time of year," he said acidly.

'You just gotta get out of here:' Read the Mercury News story here


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