The Panther Island project, a massive flood control and revitalization project along the Trinity River in Fort Worth, “kind of ran out of money” according to Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) Board member James Hill. For years, the project has struggled to reach completion due to financial woes and project coordination problems.
The TRWD infused another $1 million into the project on January 9 through the issuance of commercial paper, a debt instrument often used to pay short-term liabilities. It was issued at a rate of 1.15 percent interest. The TRWD also issued commercial paper in December to keep the project afloat.
Finance Director Sandy Newby told the board that the $1 million should cover about three months’ worth of expenditures, based on consultations with the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA) project managers. The project is a collaboration of multiple agencies including the TRVA, TRWD, the City of Fort Worth, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The project has exceeded its $200 million loan already made by the TRWD. The city of Fort Worth has so far declined to extend the TIF (tax increment financing district) that also funds the project.
Hill also said they hope to hear news of possible federal tax-dollar funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in February.
The project has not received federal funding in the last two years in large part due to concerns about the efficacy of the beleaguered project.
Original cost estimates in 2006 for the project was $435 million. Riveron, a third-party advisory firm that evaluated the project last year, now estimates the project will likely cost three times that amount at nearly $1.2 billion to complete.
The future of the project was eclipsed in further uncertainty last week after members of the TRVA board were reportedly informed that the project was still in its design phase 13-years-later, according to Texas Scorecard.
At the meeting, officials with TRVA claimed that the Trump administration was planning to appropriate approximately $170 million for national flood control projects.
Of that amount, the Panther Island project will require $38 million or 22 percent of the $170 million total to be completed. However, to stay on track, only $10 million will be required.
When David Cooke, the Fort Worth City Manager, reportedly inquired about the status of the design phase, officials said that they would check on it. This conflicts with previous statements indicating that the design phase had been completed.
These comments, however, do not conflict with a letter sent from TRWD to Attorney General Ken Paxton in October stating that that the project was indeed still in the design phase.
TRVA could not be reached for comment.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.