Local NewsTaxes & SpendingPanther Island to Receive $403 Million in Federal Funding, Rep. Kay Granger Announces

The flood control and land development project often referred to as Panther Island will receive over $400 million in funding, but details are unclear.
January 19, 2022
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) plans to allocate $403 million to the Panther Island project, according to a press release by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX-12).

Granger, who is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in July at the opening of the North Main Street Bridge that she expected at least some federal funding in 2022 to begin work on the bypass channel.

The press release was scant on details regarding when the work will begin, exactly what it will entail, and whether matching funds will be required.

It stated that the funding will “allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete final design of all project components and construction of the bypass channel.” The bypass channel is a major component of the USACE work on the endeavor, which is known officially as the Trinity River Vision/Central City Flood Control project.

Increased costs have plagued the project. The final supplement to the environmental impact statement published by USACE in 2008, estimated the costs for the federal work on the project at $110,000,000, about a quarter of what was announced by USACE and Granger.

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Additionally, a third-party evaluation by Riveron completed in 2019, estimates the overall costs to reach $1.2 billion, over $600 million more than when it was first proposed in 2006.

Nepotism complaints have also been raised about the project as J.D. Granger, son of the congresswoman, has been involved in the leadership of the Panther Island project. His LinkedIn profile says he is the executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority, which manages the flood control project. 

Inquiries to Granger’s office and the local project partner, Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), about the specifics of the plan were not responded to by the time of publication.

Lon Burnam, a member of the Water District Accountability Project, which has been critical of TRWD and its transparency and financial accountability, expressed skepticism about the announcement.

“We don’t know what strings are attached to the funding, how many years are involved, or any of the conditions,” he told The Texan

“Right now we have three bridges over dry land,” Burnam said, referring to bridges completed in recent months over what is supposed to become a bypass channel for the Trinity River.

“If the Corps of Engineers was free to follow best practices from a business standpoint, they’d walk away from this project,” he said. “But they aren’t free to do that because politics comes into play.”

Last year, during the mayoral election, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker told The Texan that Panther Island is “a complete mess” and that no plans for it should move forward until the private sector is brought to the table to help create a working plan.

However, she praised the recent news of the federal funding, stating, “This is the go-time moment we have been anxiously awaiting. We had confidence in the Corps of Engineers and our federal representatives. This funding announcement delivers the certainty that will make our community safer and the green light for further investment in the area. This is an incredible moment in Fort Worth’s history.”

Many have questioned how much of the project is about flood control and how much is about land development. 

Panther Island is a mixed-use development that includes “an envisioned 10,000 housing units and three million square feet of commercial, retail, and educational space,” a canal system, walking trails, a marina, and houseboat district. 

Its proponents emphasize that while “[t]he district is impacted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project … no federal money is being used to accomplish the City’s sustainable growth goals for the district.”

The Trinity River Vision Authority board has a meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 27 at 9:00 a.m.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.

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