Elections

Concerned about Fort Worth water and Panther Island? Here are the TRWD candidates

What is Panther Island?

Panther Island is a $1.16 billion plan to re-route the Trinity River and redirect flood waters around the low-lying areas north of downtown. Here's what you should know.
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Panther Island is a $1.16 billion plan to re-route the Trinity River and redirect flood waters around the low-lying areas north of downtown. Here's what you should know.



The Tarrant Regional Water District supplies almost 118 billion gallons of water to more than 2 million people.

It’s also the agency over the $1.17 billion Panther Island project near downtown Fort Worth.

On May 4 voters will choose two from among five candidates to fill at-large seats. They include incumbents Jim Lane and Marty Leonard, newcomers Charles “C.B.” Team and Gary Moates, and Mary Kelleher, who held a seat for one term until 2017.

The water district board oversees a raw water utility that provides more than 117.5 billion gallons of water to 2.1 million people. They’re also the local elected officials with oversight of the Trinity River project, often called Panther Island. The $1.17 billion project aims to protect 2,400 acres with a river channel that would form an island near downtown. Though approved by Congress, funding has stalled.

All the candidates support an independent review of the project, but their impressions how it should move forward vary.

Here’s a look at TRWD board candidates.

Mary Kelleher

Occupation: Assistant Court Coordinator 323rd District Court

Age: 56

Website: marykelleherfortrwd.com

Best way for voters to reach you: (817) 880-5419

Public offices held/sought: Board of Directors, Tarrant Regional Water District, 2013-2017

What organizations are you affiliated with? None provided

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Mary Kelleher

As Fort Worth’s and the region’s population grows, how can TRWD position itself to meet the increased demand for clean water?

TRWD is in an excellent position to meet increased water demands. The IPL (Integrated Pipeline Project) is near completion and provides redundancy in the transportation of water via pipeline from east Texas to our area. In addition, while I served on the board, I successfully pushed for a pilot aquifer storage recovery project which would allow millions of gallons of water treated in our area to be stored in our area. This project could be applied throughout Fort Worth and be used to meet the increased demand for water.

The Trinity River Vision project, also known as Panther Island and the Central City Project, has received new attention after missing out on federal dollars. Briefly, what is your understanding of the project and its goals?

The project was touted as flood control and once completed would result in an 800 acre island ripe for economic development. Unfortunately, this project is more about economic development than flood control.

Congress approved funding for the Trinity River project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean dollars will be appropriated each year. Should TRWD and local partners do more to lobby for appropriation? In your mind what would that look like?

I do not believe Congress will authorize any additional funding for this project, as it is apparent the project is not for flood control. I do not believe TRWD and local partners should lobby for appropriation. I believe they should concentrate on how to protect Fort Worth from real flood risks and let private developers pay for the economic development of the project.

Though JD Granger oversees the TRVA he doesn’t report to that authority’s board or the TRWD board. Instead he receives verbal reviews of his work by TRWD manager Jim Oliver. Do you believe this is an adequate level of supervision? Would you support changing the management structure, and if so how?

It appears the upper management at TRWD answers to no one and receives no performance evaluations to gauge their competency. I totally support changing the management structure and would ask for the resignation of general manager Jim Oliver and JD Granger.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has said a cost/benefit study of the project is needed. Do you believe such a study would be beneficial to the project and would you support conducting one?

A cost/benefit analysis is required by the USACE in all major flood control projects and most definitely should have been done in this case. I asked the local USACE to do a cost/benefit analysis of this project in 2017 and my requests were and continue to be ignored. A cost/benefit analysis is absolutely necessary. While I served on the TRWD board, I learned one wasn’t done because Congresswoman Kay Granger pushed to exempt the project from the cost/benefit analysis and the requirement was waived by Congress.

Development on Panther Island has been called “the icing on the cake” for the overall flood control project. Do you believe promotion of that development has distracted from the flood control goal? Should development be held off until federal funding is secured?

I believe economic development has always been the primary goal for Panther Island and TRWD used flood control as the reason to justify it. While this project drags on, Fort Worth remains at risk for flooding. The primary missions of TRWD are flood control, water supply and recreation, in that order, and I believe development should be held off until flood control is in place.

Jim Lane

Occupation: Attorney

Age: 74

Website: tarrantwateralliance.com

Best way for voters to reach you: Cell: 817-994-9900 Email: jwlane@flash.net

Public offices held/sought: Current Member of Tarrant Regional Water District Board of Directors; Former Fort Worth City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem; Former Chairman of Tarrant County Hospital District; Former Chairman of Tarrant County MHMR Board; Former Chairman of Fort Worth Stock Yards Task Force; Past President, Belmont- Terrance Homeowners Association

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Jim Lane Submitted

What organizations are you affiliated with?

Captain in United States Army/ Vietnam Veteran; Graduate of Fort Worth public schools, TCU, and Baylor Law School; NAACP Life Member; Former Board Member, Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Recipient of Tarrant County Asian American Public Service Award; Active Member of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church

As Fort Worth’s and the region’s population grows, how can TRWD position itself to meet the increased demand for clean water?

While other Texas communities struggled to meet their water needs in the recent droughts, TRWD delivered. Through our planning, construction and management of TRWD’s four lakes and our award winning wetlands projects and water conservation campaigns we have guaranteed a secure water supply for our present and future generations. Additionally, our two lakes in East Texas provide 85% of our local water and we are just completing a second 150 mile long water pipeline (built on time and on budget). We have done all this with the lowest tax rate in Tarrant County and recently reduced it even more.

The Trinity River Vision project, also known as Panther Island and the Central City Project, has received new attention after missing out on federal dollars. Briefly, what is your understanding of the project and its goals?

This is a critical flood control project involving federal and local government cooperation between the US Army Corps of Engineers, State of Texas, TRWD, Tarrant County, and Fort Worth. TRWD is responsible for land acquisition, environmental clean-up, and flood water basins. TRWD is within 3 years of completing these tasks. TxDOT along with Fort Worth is responsible for building the bridges. Fort Worth is also responsible for utility infrastructure and Gateway Park. When the bridges are complete the Corp of Engineers will begin the channel bypass and new levees.

Congress approved funding for the Trinity River project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean dollars will be appropriated each year. Should TRWD and local partners do more to lobby for appropriation? In your mind what would that look like?

First, let’s set the record straight. Federal funding is not in question. Who says? The Assistant Secretary of the US Army Corps of Engineers said this before Congress March 27, 2019. In 2016, Congress authorized the project’s federal funding which mostly won’t be needed until our local infrastructure work is completed. Locally, we have maintained our initial capped commitments from our local governments; and created a TIF District to ensure environmentally cleaned up land and land recovered from the flood plain will provide the largest share of local funding as this land is put back into use.

Though JD Granger oversees the TRVA he doesn’t report to that authority’s board or the TRWD board. Instead he receives verbal reviews of his work by TRWD manager Jim Oliver. Do you believe this is an adequate level of supervision? Would you support changing the management structure, and if so how?

I support the pending programmatic review of TRVA to ensure we have the right management structure in place to complete this critical flood control project. TRVA’s executive director is appointed by TRVA’s 7-member Board which is comprised of the Fort Worth City Manager, an elected Member of the Fort Worth City Council, the Manager of the Tarrant County’s Commissioner’s Court, an elected Member of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, the General Manger of TRWD, an elected Member of the TRWD Board, and a representative of the nonprofit Streams and Valleys.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has said a cost/benefit study of the project is needed. Do you believe such a study would be beneficial to the project and would you support conducting one?

On March 27, 2019, the United States Army Corps of Engineers verified yet again, this is not necessary as the TRV flood control project has already received congressional authorization. Furthermore, the amount of federal funding was calculated by the Corps of Engineers as the amount of money needed to complete the project. Local infrastructure and economic development costs are covered by the local partners (not the federal government). These local costs are reviewed monthly by the TRVA Board, audited annually by third party CPA firms, and have been guided thus far by nine economic studies and project financing plans.

Development on Panther Island has been called “the icing on the cake” for the overall flood control project. Do you believe promotion of that development has distracted from the flood control goal? Should development be held off until federal funding is secured?

Again, we need to set the record straight on the flood control and economic development components of this project. As land is environmentally cleaned-up and reclaimed from the flood plain, its new economic use is being harnessed to help pay for the project’s local costs. No federal funds are being used for this. Before the majority of the federal flood control funds are needed, our local partners need to complete their portions of the project including land acquisition, environmental clean-up and flood water storage basins (TRWD); and completion of the bridges/utility infrastructure (TxDOT and City of Fort Worth).

Martha “Marty” Leonard

Occupation: Local businesswoman and active community volunteer. My family started and operated the former Leonard’s Department Stores and I currently own and operate Leonard Golf Links and Teaching Facility.

Age: 82

Website: tarrantwateralliance.com

Best way for voters to reach you: Cell: 817-366-0306 Email: martyleo@flash.net

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Marty Leonard Submitted

Public offices held/sought: Currently, I serve as an elected Member and Vice President of Tarrant Regional Water Board of Directors. I have also served as an appointed member and Vice Foreman of the Tarrant County Grand Jury.

What organizations are you affiliated with? Community volunteer service is an important part of my life. I have worked with dozens of great organizations in our local community and have previously served as past president or board chair of the Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth/Tarrant County United Way, Lena Pope, and the Junior League of Fort Worth. I am also active in my church leadership. In addition to Lena Pope, I have a passion for groups involving our youth including roles with Kids who Care Advisory Board, Fellowship of Christian Athletics National Board; and First Tee Youth Golf Advisory Board.

As Fort Worth’s and the region’s population grows, how can TRWD position itself to meet the increased demand for clean water?

TRWD is consistently rated the best water supply district in Texas. We supply raw water to Tarrant County cities who then treat the water and deliver it to their respective citizens. TRWD has built, owns and manages five lakes and two wetlands projects. Our two lakes in East Texas provide 85% of our local water and we are just completing a second 150 mile long water pipeline (built on time) to ensure our current and future families have water. TRWD also has the lowest tax rate in Tarrant County and recently reduced it even more.

The Trinity River Vision project, also known as Panther Island and the Central City Project, has received new attention after missing out on federal dollars. Briefly, what is your understanding of the project and its goals?

The Trinity River Vision Authority is a joint multi-governmental flood control project between TRWD, Army Corps of Engineers, Tarrant County, and City of Fort Worth. TRWD is responsible for land acquisition, environmental clean-up, and flood water basins. TRWD is within three years of completing these tasks. TxDOT along with the City of Fort Worth is responsible for building the bridges. The city is also responsible for utility infrastructure and Gateway Park. Once the bridges are complete the Corp of Engineers will begin the channel bypass and new levees which is the bulk of the federal funding for the project.

Congress approved funding for the Trinity River project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean dollars will be appropriated each year. Should TRWD and local partners do more to lobby for appropriation? In your mind what would that look like?

As noted, Congress has authorized the project’s federal funding. Our area’s congressional and local leaders are working together to ensure timely delivery of the funding as it is needed. We are progressing as each level of government funding comes available and as each phase is completed. Locally, we have maintained our original capped commitments. Additionally, the city and local partners created a TIF District to ensure that new economic development from the project’s reclaimed land would provide the largest share of local funding. This and the recently passed TRWD Bond (2018) will ensure the project’s completion.

Though JD Granger oversees the TRVA he doesn’t report to that authority’s board or the TRWD board. Instead he receives verbal reviews of his work by TRWD manager Jim Oliver. Do you believe this is an adequate level of supervision? Would you support changing the management structure, and if so how?

The TRVA Board is responsible for selecting the TRVA executive director. The TRVA’s 7-member Board is comprised of the Fort Worth City Manager, an elected Member of the Fort Worth City Council, the Manager of the Tarrant County’s Commissioner’s Court, an elected Member of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, the General Manger of TRWD, an elected Member of the TRWD Board, and a representative of the nonprofit Streams and Valleys. Currently, TRVA is preparing for a programmatic review to ensure it has the proper structure for completion of the project. I support the programmatic review.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has said a cost/benefit study of the project is needed. Do you believe such a study would be beneficial to the project and would you support conducting one?

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (2018) has verified this is not necessary as the project has already received congressional authorization (2016) for federal funding of the flood control component of the project. Note the authorized federal flood control budget was calculated by the US Army Corps of Engineers for the work they will perform on the project. Local infrastructure costs are covered by the local partners. They’re reviewed monthly by the TRVA Board, and audited annually by third party CPA firms. To date, nine economic studies and project financing plans have already been performed for the project.

Development on Panther Island has been called “the icing on the cake” for the overall flood control project. Do you believe promotion of that development has distracted from the flood control goal? Should development be held off until federal funding is secured?

100% of TRVA’s federal funding goes to flood control work done by the US Army Corps of Engineers, most of it going to the bypass channel which has not yet started. Before the majority of these federal funds are needed, our local partners need to complete their portions of the project including land acquisition, environmental clean-up and flood water storage basins (TRWD); and completion of the bridges/utility infrastructure (City of Fort Worth/TxDOT). As land is environmentally cleaned and reclaimed from the old flood plain, its new economic development is being harnessed to help pay for the project.

Gary Moates

Occupation: Attorney focusing on commercial real estate law

Age: 72

Website: voteformoates.com

Best way for voters to reach you: voteformoates@gmail.com , or 817-632-4908

Public offices held/sought: None

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Gary Moates

What organizations are you affiliated with? I’m not affiliated with any organizations concerning my campaign. I have received endorsements form the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors, the Sierra Club and the Tarrant County Labor Council. I’m a member of the State Bar of Texas, Tarrant County Bar Association and the Fort Worth Club.

As Fort Worth’s and the region’s population grows, how can TRWD position itself to meet the increased demand for clean water?

If I am elected to the TRWD Board, I will diligently investigate the possibility of additional lakes being added.

The Trinity River Vision project, also known as Panther Island and the Central City Project, has received new attention after missing out on federal dollars. Briefly, what is your understanding of the project and its goals?

I think the absolute priorities are to get the three bridges finished, to get White Settlement Road open and to get Main and Henderson Streets realigned. I think the project needs to be finished and not scuttled; however, other than completing the bridges, I don’t think local taxes should continue to be spent on the project until there is more assurance of receiving the federal funds and that the Corps of Engineers is going to complete the flood control portion of the project.

Congress approved funding for the Trinity River project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean dollars will be appropriated each year. Should TRWD and local partners do more to lobby for appropriation? In your mind what would that look like? I’ve been told by reputable sources in Washington that the project is not going to receive the necessary federal dollars until the flood control and real estate development aspects of the project are separated. The project has “bad optics” in Washington and appears to be a “boondoggle.”

Though JD Granger oversees the TRVA he doesn’t report to that authority’s board or the TRWD board. Instead he receives verbal reviews of his work by TRWD manager Jim Olive. Do you believe this is an adequate level of supervision? Would you support changing the management structure, and if so how?

Yes, I would absolutely support changing the management structure. Subject to any reasonable recommendations in the comprehensive programmatic review when and if it is completed, I would investigate, through the issuance of an RFP, putting the entire real estate development portion of the project (i.e., Panther Island) under the control of an experienced development management group and dismantling the entire Panther Island bureaucracy, including the shutdown of the downtown Fort Worth offices promoting the not-yet-existent Panther Island.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has said a cost/benefit study of the project is needed. Do you believe such a study would be beneficial to the project and would you support conducting one?

Absolutely!

Development on Panther Island has been called “the icing on the cake” for the overall flood control project. Do you believe promotion of that development has distracted from the flood control goal? Should development be held off until federal funding is secured?

Yes and yes!

Charles “C.B.” Team

Occupation: Owner, Ellis & Tinsley Inc. Commercial Real Estate and licensed real estate broker

Age: 36

Website:www.CBTeamCampaign.comwww.CBTeamCampaign.com

Best way for voters to reach you: CBTeamCampaign@gmail.com

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Charles “C.B.” Team

Public offices held/sought N/A What organizations are you affiliated with? Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, Greater Fort Worth Association of REALTORS, Texas Association of REALTORS, Texas Exes Alumnae Association, First Presbyterian Church Fort Worth

As Fort Worth’s and the region’s population grows, how can TRWD position itself to meet the increased demand for clean water?

Long term water planning is one of the most important responsibilities of the district. TRWD should continue to invest in new technology, like wetlands water reuse and aquifer storage and recovery, as well as continue to develop other new technologies. I believe water conservation, both indoors and outdoors, will need to play a more important role as the water needs of North Texas continue to grow. Engaging the next generation to step up and take water supply seriously is key and will require new energy and fresh viewpoints on the board.

The Trinity River Vision project, also known as Panther Island and the Central City Project, has received new attention after missing out on federal dollars. Briefly, what is your understanding of the project and its goals?

I believe the project started out with the appropriate goal of protecting private property owners from the risk of flooding, however, it has been added to, modified, and inflated several times to include a massive area and huge scope of activities that are no longer in line with the original “vision”. Funding problems first became evident the summer of 2018 and we are still without a project review. I believe that no matter your desired outcome we all need to accept that we are $325 million into this project and need to carefully examine all options to move forward.

Congress approved funding for the Trinity River project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean dollars will be appropriated each year. Should TRWD and local partners do more to lobby for appropriation? In your mind what would that look like?

While it is important to maintain relationships with our representatives, I would not recommend a plan that would rely on increased lobbying efforts alone to obtain funding. A major reason the project has not obtained funding is because it has drifted from its original goal to provide flood control to an underutilized area north of downtown. In my opinion, the plan should be simplified to concentrate solely on flood control so it will have a better chance of appropriation in the near term and include contingency plans so we can progress on a deliverable timeline no matter the funding variables.

Though JD Granger oversees the TRVA he doesn’t report to that authority’s board or the TRWD board. Instead he receives verbal reviews of his work by TRWD manager Jim Oliver. Do you believe this is an adequate level of supervision? Would you support changing the management structure, and if so how?

I do not believe this is an effective structure and should be a primary focus of the programmatic review currently being discussed. I believe that a director or general manager of a large company or public entity should always be overseen by and report directly to a board of directors with regular review. I believe an accountable work environment is most productive and necessary to achieve optimal results for its employees and constituents.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has said a cost/benefit study of the project is needed. Do you believe such a study would be beneficial to the project and would you support conducting one?

I would support conducting a cost/benefit study if it became clear one is required for federal funding. I believe the project’s flawed structure, massive growth in scope, and departure from its primary goal of flood control to be major problems that need clear resolution prior to taxpayers spending additional money for such a study.

Development on Panther Island has been called “the icing on the cake” for the overall flood control project. Do you believe promotion of that development has distracted from the flood control goal? Should development be held off until federal funding is secured?

I believe this project needs to be, first and foremost, a flood control project and the district needs to be laser focused on delivering just that, free from economic development pressures and complications. Further, I believe contingency plans need to be in place should 100% funding not be achieved. Once completion of key projects is assured, I want to leverage my real estate experience to put millions of dollars back on the tax rolls at the right time in order to generate revenue and allow the private sector, not the taxpayers, to shoulder the development responsibilities.

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