As the March Republican primary approaches, President Donald Trump’s administration dropped a bombshell on Monday. Panther Island—the controversial pet project of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger (R–Fort Worth)—will not receive any federal funding this year. Instead, only $1.5 million will be released for a feasibility study that Granger and her son have fought against out of fear that it would kill the project.
Granger has been overhead on the campaign trail misleading constituents by claiming a flood study to prove the project’s merit had been completed. In fact, last week she repeated the false claim directly to Texas Scorecard when asked if the study was done and where it resided:
“Of course there has,” Granger insisted. “I’m sure the water district has it. The Corps of Engineers did that. … They can’t do [the project] without a study. The Corps of Engineers said you’ve got a flood control problem. You can’t maintain the floods, and so, the city [of Fort Worth asked], ‘What do we do?’ And so, I think it was a seven-year study, and they came back and said, ‘Here’s what you do.’”
Questions now surround the strength of President Trump’s endorsement of the Fort Worth congresswoman—as well as her waning influence in Congress—after the administration delayed funding and is requiring a study Granger has fought hard to avoid.
It also makes Granger’s re-election bid more contentious, as she’s facing a tough primary challenge from conservative businessman Chris Putnam. His campaign has called out Granger for opposing then-nominee Trump in October 2016, failing to secure border wall funding as a ranking member of House Appropriations, and enriching her son with taxpayer money via the failing Panther Island project, which is currently $800 million over budget.
For infrastructure projects to earn federal support, they must undergo a cost-benefit analysis by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These studies demonstrate a project’s need and justify its cost to Congress and taxpayers.
After nearly 14 years and $400 million spent, Granger’s Panther Island project has never undergone such a study. Only an economic development study performed by the University of North Texas—which doesn’t meet federal standards—was done.
Granger and her son J.D.—who was hired to head up the project despite having no relevant education or work experience—tried to use this study to circumvent the requirement, but the Corps said it wasn’t sufficient because it didn’t review the flood issue.
When federal lawmakers introduced a provision in 2016 requiring a cost analysis tied to $526 million in federal funds—roughly half of Panther Island’s price tag—the Grangers panicked. Requiring such an analysis, one consultant wrote to them, would be “devastating” to the project, The Texas Monitor reported.
Kay Granger waged a successful campaign to kill the provision requiring the study.
But the Grangers are not the only government officials who are being dishonest about the study. Both Jim Oliver—general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District—and Mark Mazzanti—the project’s new program coordinator—also told Texas Scorecard last week the flood study exists and that they would make it available. To date, nothing has been sent—because there is nothing to send.
At last month’s Panther Island board meeting, Mazzanti said Granger’s agency needs $38 million in federal funding to finish the project’s design phase, and $10 million to stay on schedule. The Trump administration gave them neither and instead mandated a study the Grangers have been fighting against since at least 2010.
In response, the Putnam campaigned issued the following statement:
“Panther Island was never a flood control project so it’s absolutely no surprise that the federal funding has once again been denied. It’s time to properly investigate the origins of this project, what happened to the approximately $400M of taxpayer money that has already been spent, and in addition to JD Granger who … has benefited financially. Our residents and taxpayers deserve to know the truth.”
The Granger campaign has not responded to an inquiry from Texas Scorecard.
Early voting in the March 3 Republican Primary begins February 18.