Congresswoman's Son Vows to Finish ‘Panther Island' Then, ‘I'm Out of Here'

J.D. Granger, the person in charge of the billion-dollar "Panther Island" project in Fort Worth, says he has no doubt he can deliver … even though he's not completely clear on when -- adding Tuesday that his mother's recent appointment in the House Appropriations Committee does not guarantee the federal funds needed to complete the project.

"This project is going to be completed. But it may slow down … we have been very candid about that," said Granger, sitting next to his boss, Jim Oliver, general manager of the Tarrant Regional Water District.

Both men have been in the spotlight after the stoppage -- at least temporarily -- of an estimated $400 million in federal funding that is still needed to complete the project, north of downtown Fort Worth.

Just days earlier, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to put Panther Island on its list of projects to fund across the country in 2019.

But when Granger talked with NBC 5 Investigates, he was in a buoyant mood because of what had happened earlier in the day: his mother, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, had been tapped to be the top Republican on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

In that role, J.D. Granger predicted, his mother will be able to deliver the millions of dollars still needed to complete Panther Island, billed as both a flood-protection project and an economic development endeavor.

"Today is a great day," he said. "This is the day we have been looking for right now."

Granger suggested he and his mother would retire from public life once the project is completed.

"Our goal, our commitment to this community, was to get this project on auto pilot. When this thing is on autopilot we both get to retire. I'm out of here," he said.

A day after this report was initially published, a spokesperson for Rep. Granger said that while she's looking forward to completing Panther Island she doesn't plan to retire after it's completed.

“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. The Congresswoman looks forward to completing this project and continuing to serve the people of Fort Worth in Congress. She is not retiring.”

Not everyone is so optimistic that the money will come through.

Sources with knowledge of the funding debate have told NBC 5 Investigates that congressional staffers have expressed concerns over the years about spending taxpayer money on a project run by a congresswoman's son.

Granger brushed off such concerns, saying, "We have been doing this for 12 years. We have received money under the Bush administration and under Obama. And it has not been a problem yet."

Oliver insisted there was no conflict of interest in the mother-son relationship, because the federal funds are administered by the Army Corps while J.D.'s salary is paid out of local tax dollars.

"No. Nope. I hired J.D. knowing who his mother was. I knew it was separate," Oliver said.

He blamed Washington politics for Panther Island being shut out of the federal funding.

"The Corps has put money in their budget every single year for this project," Oliver said, adding, "It's been taken out in Washington for political purposes."

"It doesn't have anything to do with who J.D. Granger is and Kay Granger. It's a political game," he said.

NBC 5 Investigates recently reported that J.D. Granger, head of the Trinity River Vision Authority, is also engaged to an employee on the Panther Island project, Shanna Cate, who helps him develop the island and manage community events.

Granger said there are plans to separate his work from hers when the TRVA eventually launches a nonprofit, headed by Cate, to manage the community events. A nonprofit would also provide tax advantages to the agency.

"It's anticipated that she's going to have her own nonprofit over there," he said, adding, "She can run those events because she just runs them very, very well."

Initial steps have been taken to incorporate such a nonprofit, selecting the name "Panther Island Initiative," even though the water district's board of directors has yet to vote on whether to create such a group.

Editor's Note: A day after the original publication of this article, JD Granger asked to clarify a statement he made during the interview about Congresswoman Kay Granger. Parts of the article have been updated to reflect his statement as well as one from Rep. Granger.

His statement: "Regretfully, I misspoke in a recent interview referring to Congresswoman Granger retiring after the federal funding has been secured for the Central City Project. The Congresswoman is looking forward to providing her constituents with the same strong leadership she has been known for since being elected to Congress over twenty years ago. While the Congresswoman’s recent appointment in the House Appropriations Committee is great news for Fort Worth, it does not guarantee remaining federal funds needed to complete the project. We will continue to work with Congress to secure federal money for this important flood control project."

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