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The Panther Island project will see enough federal money in the 2022 funding cycle to begin digging the channel under the already-built bridges, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger said Saturday.
Granger, R-Fort Worth, said it’s not clear how much funding will come through for the project, but she’s confident it will be enough to begin cutting the 1.5-mile channel.
“It comes in different buckets, so there may be some in this one and then some in the next one,” Granger said. “I think it will be funded for everything they can spend in the next cycle.”
Granger’s comments came after a Saturday morning ribbon cutting for the North Main Street bridge. That bridge, which opened to traffic in late June, is the second of three Panther Island bridges. The White Settlement Road bridge opened in April and the Henderson Street bridge is slated to open later this summer.
But for now, all three bridges span dry land. Officials, including Granger, have long said that it was cheaper and easier to build the bridges first and then cut the channel that will connect the ends of a U-shaped bend in the Trinity River. The area known as Panther Island is not actually an island until water begins flowing through the channel.
“We didn’t have to do the water this way, but it was the smart way, it could be done faster and cheaper,” Granger said.
The ambitious, $1.17 billion project is part economic development and part flood control. “Panther Island” refers specifically to the economic development portion; officials refer to the flood control portion, which is headed up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as “Central City.”
Because of the multi-sourced funding, the city and county have been awaiting federal money for the flood control piece, which is primarily the digging of the channel. And while U.S. Congress in 2016 authorized the funds — which could be up to about half of the total project cost — it has not appropriated the money and actually sent it to Fort Worth.
The wait has frustrated some Fort Worth residents, who have been hearing about the eventual Panther Island for more than 15 years now.
But on Saturday, Granger said there’s money on the horizon. She said the funding will come through the White House’s Office of Budget and Management. Under the Trump administration, that office blocked funding for the project.
Granger hopes the funding has a better chance under the Biden administration.
“The last administration stopped the funding, so we feel very good about this administration bringing the funding forward,” she said.
Granger isn’t the only one who’s feeling optimistic. Dan Buhman — who is now the general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District, which is the local partner for the federal portion of the project — told the Star-Telegram in late June that he also expects to see federal money flowing in soon.
“I have all the confidence in the world that we’ll be able to get federal funds,” Buhman said at the time.
And G.K. Maenius, the Tarrant County administrator, also said in late June that things are beginning to align for the project.
“I believe — and it’s my personal belief, but I’ve been around for a while — is that this might be one of the best opportunities we have to actually begin receiving money from government funding, from the feds,” Maenius said at the time.
Granger added on Saturday that she’s also ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, a title she’s held since 2019.
“That helps,” she said.