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Is Panther Island audit possible? This group will consider a project review

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Read more about Fort Worth’s $1.16 billion flood control and economic development project that has stopped receiving federal funds.

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Following calls from Fort Worth leaders for a third-party review of Panther Island, the Tarrant Regional Water Board will consider auditing the Trinity River Vision Authority’s $1.16 billion endeavor.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s Democratic opponent, Vanessa Adia, joined Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and council members Wednesday in requesting the water district conduct an independent review of the Panther Island’s management, progress and finances. The district oversees the project with the Trinity River Vision Authority.

The flood control and economic development project was left out of the federal budget this year because of a lack of an economic analysis. Congress in 2016 approved funding up to $526 million, which includes a channel that would create and urban lake and island ripe for development.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on Monday asked for an audit of the project and suggested that focusing on flood control instead of economic development would help secure federal funding. City Council members Tuesday voiced support for not extending a special tax district that would pay off $250 million in bonds until a review is done.

With that in mind, the Tarrant Regional Water District board will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at district’s administration building, 800 E. Northside Dr., spokesman Chad Lorance said Wednesday. An agenda for the meeting will be posted Friday.

Officials at the Trinity River Vision Authority have maintained the project is on schedule to be completed by 2028.

Matt Oliver, Trinity River Vision Authority spokesman, has previously said federal funding shouldn’t be a concern. Because Congress fully authorized the project in 2016, the federal government’s portion will eventually show up.

On Wednesday Oliver said in an email response to questions that the agency supported a third party review of the project. Annual outside financial reviews have been done since 2007, along with reviews of costs estimates and engineering, he said.

”If there is a local partner that needs additional information then we intend to work with that local partner to make sure they get the information they need,” Oliver said.

It’s unclear how long a review would take, but Oliver said outside financial reviews can take up to two months.

So far the Army Corps has contributed $61.9 million. Panther Island continues to be eligible for funding, spokes Clay Church said, an the the agency is exploring future funding options.

Adia, who is running against Granger on the Nov. 6 ballot, said an independent review would clarify questions about management and finances. Early voting runs through Nov. 2.

“The people of Tarrant County and District 12 deserve to know where this money has been spent, how this project has been managed and to have accountability and transparency,” she said.

Adia called on J.D. Granger, Kay Granger’s son, to resign as the Trinity River Vision Authority’s executive director. She questioned whether the Grangers’ relationship interfered with the project.

“This project under the management of Rep. Kay Granger’s son has been endlessly delayed and massively overbudget.,” she said.

Kay Granger and J.D. Granger didn’t return requests for comment.

Earlier this month, in a news release, Kay Granger said Panther Island continued to have federal support.

“The Trinity River Vision flood control project is both strongly supported by the Corps and has received Congressional approval,” the statement read. “It is no secret that such funding will be spread over several years to match the progress of the state and local government partners as in the pending completion by TxDOT on the project’s new bridges.”

Luke Ranker: 817-390-7747; @lrankerNEWS
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