Fort Worth

Panther Island review is done, but the public will have to wait to see it

Army Corps Officials: “We don’t have the funding” for Panther Island

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tell lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the White House won't give them the "green light" to complete Fort Worth's Panther Island project, March 27, 2019.
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Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tell lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the White House won't give them the "green light" to complete Fort Worth's Panther Island project, March 27, 2019.

An independent review of the $1.17 billion Panther Island project in Fort Worth is complete, but the public may not be able to see the results for nearly a month.

The public release of the assessment will come after Trinity River Vision Authority board members and Tarrant Regional Water District staff have a chance to review the document and offer changes to both data and recommendations from Riveron, the Dallas consultant hired to dig into the Trinity River project.

Riveron delivered the more than 90-page review to G.K. Maenius, Tarrant County administrator and Trinity River Vision Authority board president, Wednesday morning, he said. He called it “comprehensive,” “complex” and “detailed.”

For that reason he suggested each authority board member, which includes public officials from the city, county and water district, review the document over several weeks and return suggestions for changes or corrections to Riveron by August.

“The recommendations are substantial,” he said. “We want to check mainly the facts and the data used to make those recommendations.”

This suggestion did not sit well with some board members who expected the review to be made public by Wednesday, either fully or in the form of a presentation from Riveron staff.

Fort Worth city councilman and authority board member Carlos Flores said he had been looking forward to “something to share with the public.”

“There’s a obligation to get this product out, not just to the public” but to the board, he said.

City Manager David Cooke said he didn’t like the idea of each board member reviewing the document and sending suggestions independently. Instead, he wanted the process to play out “in front of all of us.”

Tarrant Regional Water District and river authority board member James Hill, along with Flores, said the idea of the review was to have independent suggestions provided to the board. They said offering changes to Riveron’s recommendations went against that principle.

Maenius said he hoped corrections would not influence recommendations. He said he understood if board members were disappointed, but he felt it was important for the lengthy document to be digested.

“They’re not simply going to change something because someone wanted it changed,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to look at this report and say ‘that’s wrong, so the report’s wrong.’”

J.D. Granger, the authority’s director and the son of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, said he worried releasing parts of the report early could result in bad information floating around the public.

Riveron was selected in April to study the project’s finances, management and structure at a cost not to exceed $460,000. So far the authority has paid $150,000. The assessment came after Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called for a review when the federal government skipped funding the project this fiscal year.

The Army Corps of Engineer’s Central City Project, often called the Panther Island project, requires the Corps to cut a bypass channel in the Trinity River north of downtown Fort Worth, forming a roughly 800-acre island. The channel is part of a flood control effort aimed at protecting about 2,400 acres while allowing some of the city’s levees to come down.

The project received roughly $60 million under previous administrations. Congress approved $526 million for it in 2016.

Meanwhile, an anticipated update on the schedule of three bridges needed to connect the city to Panther Island has not come yet.

The Texas Department of Transportation is waiting on an updated schedule from contractor Sterling, which was due June 30. The bridges are expected to be done between summer of 2020 and spring of 2021 with White Settlement Road coming online first.

Doug Rademaker, a project manager for the city, said only two of the specialized V-Piers are left on Henderson Street and work is progressing on North Main Street and White Settlement Road.

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