With her ascendance to the top post among Republicans in the powerful House Appropriations Committee, GOP Rep. Kay Granger is in position to deliver federal funds to a years-long project to protect her Texas district from floodwaters.
The director of that project? Her son, J.D. Granger, head of the Trinity River Vision Authority.
Granger, who represents Fort Worth, Texas, has long been a proponent of the city’s “Panther Island” project to create an extra channel to bypass a dogleg in the Trinity River just north of downtown. When connected with the river’s natural dogleg, the channel will create a new island, “Panther Island,” where officials have planned to install flood protection gates to prime nearly 2,400 acres of land for economic development opportunities.
But the project has taken more than 15 years since it was initially green-lighted in 2003 and has blown past the estimated $360 million original budget.
That has spurred accusations of mismanagement and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars.
“This was a bad deal early on,” former city councilman Clyde Picht, who did not vote against the original proposal, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in October. “It’s probably the worst managed public project in the state of Texas, if not the nation.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers excluded the Panther Island project from its list of projects to fund in 2019. The House and Senate appropriations committees have ultimate authority to decide what projects the Corps funds.
J.D. Granger and the Trinity River Vision Authority have estimated that they still need $400 million in federal assistance to complete the project. He expressed optimism he can finish the job.
“This project is going to be completed. But it may slow down … we have been very candid about that,” J.D. Granger told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth this week.
J.D. Granger said his mother’s appointment to lead Republicans on the appropriations committee is a boost to the project’s chances of completion.
“Today is a great day. … This is the day we have been looking for right now,” he said. “Our goal, our commitment to this community, was to get this project on autopilot. When this thing is on autopilot we both get to retire. I’m out of here,” he said, suggesting his mother could retire once the project is completed.
But the congresswoman said her appointment to lead Republicans on the Appropriations Committee does nothing to change her view of the project. She also said its completion would have no bearing on her future in Congress.
“Panther Island has been a priority of Congresswoman Granger’s for many years. Her appointment as Ranking Member doesn’t change the importance of the project for the citizens of Fort Worth,” a spokeswoman for Granger said in a statement. “The Congresswoman looks forward to completing this project and continuing to serve the people of Fort Worth in Congress. She is not retiring.”
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