Major management changes at the embattled Trinity River Vision Authority included the removal of its executive director, J.D. Granger, who had headed up the “Panther Island” project since its beginning more than a dozen years ago.
Granger, the son of a powerful congresswoman who started the project, will instead work directly for Jim Oliver, head of the Tarrant Regional Water District.
Oliver told NBC 5 Investigates that Granger will focus on flood control projects, while the economic development part of Panther Island - once a major interest for Granger - will be taken over by the city of Fort Worth.
After the changes were announced at Wednesday’s TRVA board meeting, Granger told NBC 5 Investigates he was okay with the restructuring, “if that’s what they want.”
Asked how long he plans to continue working on the project, he said he didn’t know.
The Panther Island project dates back to 2003, at a projected cost of $360 million.
Way over budget and years behind in completion, the project’s estimated cost has ballooned to nearly $1.2 billion - with no end in sight.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger is credited with creating the project, first labeled Trinity Vision, and she is nearly solely responsible for securing federal dollars for its creation.
From the beginning, her son, J.D., was placed in charge, as executive director, immediately drawing criticism that he only got the job because of his mother.
In recent years, federal dollars have been cut off, with critics in Congress asaying it was improper for J.D. to lead a project begun by his mother.
The Trump administration has also been critical, saying Panther Island had become more of an initiative for an entertainment district, rather than a flood control project, and that other areas in the country were in greater need of federal dollars to address the threat of floods.
Despite the many setbacks, the city of Fort Worth has continued to pledge its commitment to completing Panther Island, with voters last year approving a $250 million bond package to make that happen.
However, the cost overruns and construction delays finally tested the city’s patience, with Mayor Betsy Price pushing for an outside “performance” review that led to the management changes, which also includes hiring a project coordinator for the TRVA.