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No Crossing Guard for Turtles, But White House Claims Worthwhile Stimulus Projects

A $3.4 million-dollar underground turtle tunnel funded by government money is just one example of the Obama administration's frivolous stimulus spending, claims one Republican senator.

Sen. Tom Coburn released a comprehensive list Tuesday detailing 100 local projects funded by federal stimulus money that he says amount to nothing more than billions of dollars in wasteful spending.

But the Obama administration says Coburn's list is wrong. A number of projects listed in the report are no longer being funded by recovery money.

Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, said $1.15 million is being spent to build a guardrail on the "non-existent Optima Lake in Oklahoma." On its Web site for the lake, The Army Corps of Engineers warns: "Visitors should be aware that the lake's level can be very low. Depending on rainfall and evaporation rates, the lake may offer no water-based recreation and may not be suitable for swimming, fishing, boating or other activities."

But the White House said that project has been killed. In fact, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, several parts of Coburn's report are "inaccurate" and "flat out wrong," and some of the projects were cancelled by the administration prior to the report's release. 

Gibbs acknowledged that he had not reviewed every project listed in Coburn's report, an admission that Coburn spokesman John Hart called "disappointing."

"It's disappointing Robert is commenting on something he hasn't read, just as it was unfortunate many lawmakers made grandiose promises about the benefits of a stimulus plan they never read," Hart told FOXNews.com. 

Among the funded projects listed by Coburn are $1.5 million for a new wastewater treatment plant in Perkins, Okla., that the senator says will result in higher utility costs for local residents. Also listed are $15 million for "shovel-ready" repairs to "little-used bridges in rural Wisconsin" and $840,000 to repair a bridge in the state that carries 260 vehicles a day largely to a backwater saloon and a country club.

"The vice president has been touring the country on the taxpayers' dime on a stimulus public relations tour precisely because Dr. Coburn's premise is correct -- the stimulus plan isn't working, as these few examples illustrate," Hart said.

Ed DeSeve, senior adviser to Obama for Recovery Act implementation, said more than 20,000 projects have been approved, contributing to the economy's slow recovery.

"With 20,000 projects approved, there are bound to be some mistakes. When we find them, we have been transparent about it, and worked on a bipartisan basis to shut them down immediately. Sen. Coburn's report, however, is filled with inaccuracies, including criticisms of projects that have already been stopped, projects that never were approved, and some projects that are working quite well."

Gibbs added Obama has upheld his pledge to be transparent, and administration officials have been vigilant in the use of stimulus funding for job creation.

"This president has taken historic steps to ensure that there is adequate transparency and that this money is spent the way it's intended to be used," Gibbs said.

Coburn's report is a compilation of months of research into hundreds of local projects across the nation. In it, he blasted $10 million in federal dollars to renovate "an abandoned train station that hasn't been used in 30 years" and criticized the use of $3.4 million to build an "eco-passage" -- or wildlife road crossing for turtles and other wildlife -- in Florida.

"Why did the turtle cross the road? To get to the other side of a stimulus project," Coburn says in the report.

The 13-foot tunnel near Tallahassee, Fla., runs under Highway 27 -- a busy road that has the highest road-kill rate for turtles in the world, according to state officials. 

Josh Boan, the Florida Transportation Department's natural resources manager, said a large number of turtles and other wildlife are killed in the area. In addition to protecting wildlife, he said the project is needed for safety: turtles hit by vehicles can become flying projectiles.

FOX News' Shannon Bream and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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