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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has kicked into high gear to begin work on the 1.5 mile bypass channel for Fort Worth’s Panther Island, and the city, county and water district need to act with similar speed to keep up, the project manager said Thursday. Speaking to the Trinity River Vision Authority on Thursday, Woody Frossard said his project development teams have set up meetings next week with the Corps and the city for how to move forward. Frossard works for the Tarrant Regional Water District. The board meeting comes eight days after the Army Corps announced it was allocating $403 million to construct the channel north of downtown and finish a series of man-made flood plains.
The project, first conceived in 2003, aims to bolster Fort Worth’s aging levee system built in 1960. This is the most money the agency has allocated to the project. Congress approved $526 million in 2016, but disagreements with the Trump administration over the project’s feasibility held up funding.
The allocation was made possible by the city, county and water district working together to buy land, relocate businesses, and move utilities to make way for the bypass channel, said J.D. Granger, executive director of the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project. “You did a fantastic job. You got out of the way, and the Corps had the design information to make that huge request,” Granger said. The city still needs to move utility lines on the south side of the channel. City manager David Cooke said the City Council will get a briefing about this during its Feb. 15 work session. The $403 million will cover all remaining design costs. Frossard said this is important because it will allow the Corps to move quickly to request additional funding to finish the project. The only remaining items that need federal funding are three flood gates, a dam and a pump station. Frossard estimated it will take the Corps two and a half years to design those projects to the point where it can request funding to finish construction.
The city, county, and water district must match 5% of any additional federal funding, said Sandy Newby, the water district’s chief financial officer. Newby said this money is likely to come from a specialized tax zone for Panther Island or from a 2018 bond package that allocated $250 million for the project. No additional public funding will be needed, Newby said.