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Federal Funding for Fort Worth's Panther Island Back in Play: Mayor

July 27,2019

See full NBC DFW news article by Scott Gordon here.

Top White House aides signaled in a meeting earlier this week with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price that they would fund Panther Island if the focus is on flood control and not economic development, the mayor said Saturday.

"I feel very optimistic this is good news," Price said in a telephone interview.

She cautioned that many details must be worked out but that the federal government could fund as much as $250 million to build a bypass channel.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers had originally authorized more than $500 million, but the mayor said hopes of getting the full funding appear bleak.

Price quietly flew to Washington Tuesday to meet with acting White House Chief of Staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney.

Price also met briefly with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office but did not have a chance to discuss Panther Island with him, she said.

The $1 billion project, which promoters say would double the size of downtown and create an island by re-routing the Trinity River, has been mired in controversy and questions about funding.

Jason George, owner of Angelo's BBQ along White Settlement road, is one of several business owners left frustrated by delays. 

“We’ve lost customers. We’ve had to cut down on anything we can possibly cut back. We’ve lost staff over it. And this just over all from top to bottom has impacted us quite a bit," said Jason George. 

Though he says any money's a good start, he doesn't share the Mayor's enthusiasm. 

“I’m not optimistic, no. We’ve heard too many times that it’s headed in the right direction, and then it’s at a stand still. So I’m not too optimistic until I see it," said George. 

Two weeks ago, NBC DFW obtained a 90-page consultant's report which recommended significant changes to how Panther Island is managed. One specific suggestion: Creating a non-profit to handle economic development so the Tarrant Regional Water District and its offshoot, Trinity River Vision Authority, can focus on flood control.

The meeting came with the help of Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican whose district stretches from south of Fort Worth to southwest of Austin. It notably does not include Panther Island, which is in the district of Rep. Kay Granger. Her son J.D. Granger is in charge of the project.

Price said she asked for Williams' help because of his relationship with the White House budget office.

Location Mentioned: Panther Island Pavilion