Cornyn: Pan­ther Is­land project needs fo­cus on flood con­trol

Star-Telegram - - Front Page - BY LUKE RANKER lranker@star-tele­gram.com

Texas Sen. John Cornyn added his name Fri­day to the list of lead­ers who be­lieve the Pan­ther Is­land project needs to fo­cus on flood con­trol in or­der to meet muster for fed­eral fund­ing.

Much like post-Hur­ri­cane Har­vey projects, Pan­ther Is­land, a $1.16 bil­lion re-chan­nel of the Trin­ity River, should fo­cus on fu­ture flood mit­i­ga­tion, said Cornyn, the GOP’s No. 2 in the Se­nate. The project has been billed as a flood con­trol tool, but the is­land and ur­ban lake it would create has been eyed for de­vel­op­ment and a boon for the Fort Worth econ­omy.

“Ba­si­cally it should be about pro­tect­ing the com­mu­nity,” Cornyn said.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials skipped Pan­ther Is­land fund­ing in this year’s bud­get while other Texas flood con­trol projects, in­clud­ing one on the Trin­ity River in Dal­las, re­ceived money. Texas of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Cornyn, boasted about se­cur­ing those dol­lars for Texas, but have re­mained quiet about Pan­ther Is­land.

Con­gress ap­proved the project for nearly $530 mil­lion in fed­eral funds in 2016, and about $60 mil­lion has been doled out. This

year it was ex­cluded from the fed­eral bud­get, how­ever, un­der a White House bud­get of­fice run by for­mer South Carolina Rep. Mick Mul­vaney.

The Army Corps of Engi­neers says the project re­mains au­tho­rized and el­i­gi­ble for fu­ture fund­ing. Spokesman Clay Church last month told the Star-Tele­gram that op­tions were be­ing ex­plored, but since Con­gress did away with ear­marks, law­mak­ers have strug­gled to di­rect funds to­ward spe­cific projects. Roughly $80 bil­lion projects across the coun­try are wait­ing for fund­ing, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says.

A White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get of­fi­cial mean­while told Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price at meet­ings in Wash­ing­ton ear­lier this year that an eco­nomic study of the project is needed.

Cornyn, speak­ing to re­porters af­ter a lun­cheon with the Tar­rant Re­gional Trans­porta­tion Coali­tion Lun­cheon in Fort Worth, echoed that con­cern on Fri­day and said a cost-ben­e­fit anal­y­sis would be re­quired.

Roughly 75 per­cent of the projects stud­ied by the Corps don’t meet the costto-ben­e­fit ra­tio that is re­quired to be part of the ex­ec­u­tive branch’s bud­get, a source told The Star-Tele­gram in Oc­to­ber.

A full anal­y­sis would help find that re­quired ra­tio, Cornyn said.

“That would be log­i­cal next step,” he said.

Cornyn is up for re-elec­tion in 2020, and must give up his role as whip when GOP se­na­tors pick their new lead­ers this month.

Both Cornyn and Price Tues­day said they would work to­gether to en­sure the project fits fed­eral re­quire­ments.

Repub­li­can Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth has fought for the project as a pow­er­ful ap­pro­pri­a­tor, di­rect­ing money home. Her son, J.D. Granger, is Pan­ther Is­land’s top ex­ec­u­tive.

Sep­a­rate from a cost­ben­e­fit study, Pan­ther Is­land now faces an in­de­pen­dent re­view.

Though the scope of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­mains un­clear, those sup­port­ing it said it should an­a­lyze fi­nances, man­age­ment and progress. The Trin­ity River Vi­sion Author­ity board ap­proved the re­view ear­lier on Tues­day with a goal of hav­ing an in­de­pen­dent firm lined up by the end of this year or early next year.

Price and Fort Worth City Coun­cil mem­bers called for the re­view, and Price said Fri­day the re­view should take “a hard look” at where the decade-old project is.

“Let’s fo­cus on the chan­nel, which is the flood con­trol piece and go for­ward from there,” she said.

TRIN­ITY RIVER VI­SION AUTHOR­ITY

Pan­ther Is­land is $1.16 bil­lion Trin­ity River project in Fort Worth.

John Cornyn

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