What is Panther Island?
Demands for the release of the independent review of Fort Worth’s $1.17 billion Panther Island project continued Friday with Congressman Marc Veasey weighing in.
Though dozens of public officials have copies of Riveron’s 90 page assessment of the Trinity River project, including Mayor Betsy Price, who called for the review, they have been reluctant to release the document.
Veasey on Friday said he spoke to a representative of the Tarrant Regional Water District and called for the immediate release of Riveron’s report.
“It’s very important that there be full transparency on this project if a level of trust is to be achieved moving forward,” Veasey said in a statement.
A spokeswoman told the Star-Telegram that Veasey had not had access to the report, but urged local public officials to make it public.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, who has pushed from the project in Washington, also said the report should be made public, but after officials double check “recommendations are based on factually correct conditions.”
“I have been told that no one has been asked to comment on the independent recommendations,” she said in a statement. “They were only asked to check the accuracy of the underlying assumptions upon which each recommendation was made.”
Her son, J.D. Granger, serves as the Trinity River Vision Authority’s director.
The Dallas-based consulting firm spent nearly three months digging into Trinity River Vision Authority documents and interviewing key staff. Its report and a presentation was expected to be made public Wednesday, but Tarrant County Administrator G.K. Maenius, board president of the Trinity River Vision Authority, suggested the study not be released for about a month, arguing staff and board members needed time to digest it and ensure findings and recommendations were based on accurate data.
Price requested an independent analysis of the Trinity River project in October after reports the federal government would not provide needed funding in this fiscal year. In a statement to the Star-Telegram, she said she had expected the review to be made public Wednesday and an internal review was not part of the timeline presented when the authority contracted with Riveron in April.
Despite receiving a copy of the report Thursday afternoon and calling for it to become public, Price’s office has not released the report.
A copy marked draft was provided to the Trinity River Vision Authority’s board Wednesday, which includes councilman Carlos Flores, city manager David Cooke and water district board member James Hill. Also on the board are water district manager Jim Oliver, Tarrant County Commission Roy Brooks and Bob Riley, a representative from Streams and Valleys.
Copies have also been given to city council members, city and water district staff, and other county officials.
Hill, Cooke and Flores have said they expected the report to be made public Wednesday along with a presentation from Riveron. They disagreed with the need to take a full month reviewing the 90-page report, but understood concerns about double-checking facts.
Oliver and J.D. Granger, argued against the release of the report until they had time to read it and offer changes. With Star-Telegram and KXAS/Channel 5 reporters present, Granger wondered if the news organizations would accurately report Riveron’s findings.
One person close to the project who had reviewed parts of the report told the Star-Telegram that Riveron recommended “substantial management changes.”
KXAS/Channel 5 reported Thursday the report included a recommendation stripping responsibilities for real estate development on Panther Island from Granger and Oliver. Instead a nonprofit economic development group under the city would control the island’s growth.
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, 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. That money is expected to be doled out over several years but wasn’t included in the last two federal budgets.
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.