Trumpeting a report by Sen. John McCain and Sen. Tom Coburn on "wasted" stimulus funds, Fox & Friends hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson, and Peter Johnson Jr. repeatedly claimed that $54 million in stimulus money went to "save" a wine-tour train in Napa Valley, when in fact, the funds are for an Army Corps of Engineers project "designed to minimize flooding of downtown Napa," which requires the relocation of the Wine Train.
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Fox & Friends hosts repeatedly claim stimulus funding went to "save" a Napa Valley wine-tour train
From the December 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
CARLSON: Talk about a gravy train, we're tracking your stimulus money. More than 50 million of it. Why is it being used to save some train tracks in the wine country?
CARLSON: I guess we're listening to some pigs this morning as well. Which sounds better: the music or those pigs? But the pigs remind about all the money that is being spent in pork on Capitol Hill. And, apparently, one of -- we have been covering this for you for months now -- but one of the recipients of $54 million from your taxpayer dollars is this train in Napa Valley. Apparently was damaged by floods. Needs to be fixed, and some people are scratching their heads wondering if it really needed $54 million to be fixed.
DOOCY: Fifty-four million to save the Napa Valley wine train. That is the headline from Senators McCain and Coburn, and in fact, the multimillion-dollar contract is number 11 on their list of 100 projects deemed by them to be "wasteful or just outright silly."
JOHNSON: All aboard.
DOOCY: All aboard the wine train. Here's the thing though, it's not just to save the wine train, but it's also to save the integrity of the track and, you know, because through erosion and stuff like that, if the track goes away, then the farmers get flooded and stuff like that.
JOHNSON: This issue with regard to flood control funds. So it's not as simple as it sounds, although it is to save the Napa Valley wine train.
CARLSON: To me the key is this, and you guys are going to be interviewing the public information officer out in this part of the country in Napa Valley a little later on.
JOHNSON: What should we ask him?
CARLSON: Well, I just read through his notes, and to me the whole crux of this is that he says our congressman from our area pitched to get some money for the project. We expected 10 to 20 million but we never imagined we'd get so much. Now see, that, to me, is the essence of this whole argument. It's OK, maybe, if they asked for it, well, why didn't you just give them 10 million? I mean, are our tax dollars so aplenty that we just, you know, flourish them with 54 million?
JOHNSON: We will be asking that. That is a good question.
CARLSON: I guess, I don't know.
DOOCY: This could be one of those programs that is actually shovel-ready, because it's all about fixing the land and stuff like that. Nonetheless, there is a wine train involved and millions of dollars, so we're going to talk about that.
DOOCY: And, you can call it a gravy train. California getting a lot of our money to save a wine tour train from flooding. That's right, we're tracking your stimulus money straight ahead.
In fact, the project does not fund Wine Train, but is designed to prevent "flooding of downtown Napa"
Flood-control project relocates Wine Train. The award description for the project states: "The Napa Valley Wine Train Relocation project is a flood control job designed to minimize flooding of downtown Napa, CA. The existing railroad bridge over the Napa River is at an elevation that impedes the flow of the 100 year storm event. This backs up river flows from major storms and floods homes and businesses. In addition the river has an oxbow channel which constricts the major flows further adding to the flooding of downtown." The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracted with Suulutaaq Inc., an Alaskan firm, to complete the project. Contrary to Carlson's claim, the Wine Train is not a "recipient" of the stimulus funds.
Napa Valley Register: Officials said project "not done at the behest of or for the benefit of the Wine Train." According to a December 11 Napa Valley Register article, "The funding is part of the larger $99.5 million in stimulus funds awarded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Napa's flood control project" and the "goal is to prevent another major flood like the one that ripped through central Napa on New Year's Eve 2005, causing an estimated $115 million in damage." The article noted that "[o]fficials have said in the past that the project is not done at the behest of or for the benefit of the Wine Train, but to maintain the only rail right of way through the valley and lift two train trestles high enough that they will not catch debris, slow fast-moving water and cause flooding downtown."
Napa County spokesman: "We're not doing anything to protect the train in any way." According to a local ABC report, Barry Martin, spokesman for the Napa Flood Protection District, stated of the project, "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." The article also quoted Congressman Mike Thompson's statement that "[t]he wine train would continue to operate with or without the flood control project, this merely allows the flood project to be completed." After Doocy, Carlson, and Johnson repeatedly claimed the money went to "save" the wine-tour train, they hosted Martin, who said it's a "flood-control project" and that it "will absolutely protect locals from flooding and absolutely not is it a waste of money." Martin also said: "Our project is different from other flood-control projects. It is land intensive. We are moving things out of the way where the floodwaters go rather than trying to deepen or straight and the river, which we have learned over time is not a very environmentally sound practice and it doesn't really work very well. So this is a new approach to flood control, we have been under construction for many years, and we've have moved many facilities, buildings, railroad tracks and bridges. It's a large project, and this is just one piece of it."
Wine Train spokesman "shocked" to hear that people think train "received $54 million in stimulus money -- which, of course, we didn't." In an open letter to McCain, Melodie Hilton, director of marketing and public relations for Napa Valley Wine Train, stated, "I was shocked to hear that people high up in Washington think that the Napa Valley Wine Train received $54 million in stimulus money -- which, of course, we didn't." Hilton further stated:
It worries me that no calls were made before we were held up to the entire American public -- a small business in Northern California -- as an enormous source of government waste.
If you had spoken with us, or even project officials, you might have asked: Why would the Napa Valley Wine Train need, or take, $54 million in taxpayer money to move a small section of rail line 33 feet? The answer is: we didn't!
So, who does? Napa County has an award-winning flood control project and design; one that was proposed, and approved by voters, many years ago. This is the project that is being funded. That design has impacted a lot of businesses. It has necessitated the movement of several rights-of-way, and at my last count four or five bridges (including the Wine Train's). The goal of this project is to protect the city of Napa from continued flooding, period, not enhance specific companies.