After 16 years and over $383 million of their hard-earned dollars has been spent, unfinished bridges over dry ground are all that Fort Worth and Tarrant County taxpayers can see of the Panther Island project.

Texas Scorecard recently visited the site where Panther Island, a massive government plan conceived in 2003, is located. The plan seeks to reroute the Trinity River via a 1.5-mile bypass—and redevelop prime real estate near downtown Fort Worth—all under the guise of flood control.

After years of delays and cost overruns, in which the price tag increased from $435 million in 2006 to more than $1.1 billion in 2018, the Trump administration froze federal funding to the project last year and triggered a third-party programmatic review. The review found that no phase of construction was completed.

Below are photos from our visit earlier this month.

Among other glaring problems, the review also found that J.D. Granger—the executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority and son of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX)—colluded with Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District, to keep TRVA board members in the dark.

The TRVA was the entity created in 2006 to oversee coordination of the bypass channel, recreational amenities, and land redevelopment. Granger was hired to run the TRVA, despite having no education or work experience in public works or real estate development.

In direct conflict with the review’s restructuring recommendations, Granger confirmed at a recent meeting of the TRVA board that he will keep his current job and continue to report directly to Oliver.

“Right now, I’ve been under both Jim [Oliver] and TRVA,” Granger said. “I’m still going to be under Jim, no matter what.”

The review recommended that a wall of separation be created between the TRVA executive director (Granger) and the TRWD general manager (Oliver) and that the TRVA would only oversee Panther Island’s flood control aspects. However, Oliver informed Texas Scorecard by email that, in reality, there will be no wall of separation, and nothing will change.

“J.D. Granger is still going to run the [Panther Island] project,” Oliver wrote.

“The TRVA, as it exists today, will be absorbed into TRWD. JD will remain as executive director or its equivalent and will have virtually the same responsibilities as he has today.”

Texas Scorecard asked Granger what assurances taxpayers have that costs will not increase more and that the new deadline of 2028 will be met.

Granger only responded, “Everyone’s doing their best to do that.”

Taxpayers still deserve a forensic audit of the project to discover where their money has gone. Those concerned about this boondoggle can contact their Fort Worth City Councilmembers as well as the elected members of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.