Flood mitigation projects across Fort Worth will not be delayed by the city’s move to pull $14.1 million from those projects to pay for immediate construction on Central City / Panther Island, city officials said Tuesday. 

“We can’t afford to delay them,” assistant city manager Dana Burghdoff told Fort Worth City Council members April 18. “They are life-safety projects, and we need to complete them. We are going to run into cost overruns, so doing this cash flow management is important to all projects, not just Central City.” 

The announcement comes after the city’s assistant stormwater management director Jennifer Dyke told the Fort Worth Report April 14 that some of the city’s 11 affected projects “may be delayed,” depending on how quickly the city can complete relocations of stormwater and water utilities needed for the Central City / Panther Island project. 

 Tarrant Regional Water District has agreed to reimburse the city for the cost of the utility relocations on an annual basis. The water district will reimburse Fort Worth for any city invoices paid before Aug. 1. The payment, funded through TRWD bonds, will arrive in September, water district spokesperson Matt Oliver said. 

Dyke said the funding move is necessary to keep up with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ schedule, which requires Fort Worth to finish relocating 14 stormwater and water utilities by the end of 2024. After the city finishes relocations, the Corps will begin building two bypass channels to reroute parts of the Trinity River and make Panther Island a reality. 

Combined with $9.2 million in existing funds, the $14.1 million from flood mitigation projects will be used to move storm drains along Grand Avenue, near Rockwood Park. Fort Worth City Council members will consider a construction contract for the Central City project at their April 25 meeting. 

City staff did a great job of selecting flood mitigation projects that won’t be negatively affected by a temporary shift of funds, Burghdoff said. A chart provided by the city Tuesday shows that all of the selected projects will see “no impact to construction schedule” as a result of the move. 

However, four city projects have a contingency attached: Construction won’t be impacted if “short term funding” is available, the chart shows. 

Those projects include $1.23 million for the Total Channel Restoration Bond project at 6th Avenue and Brandon Lane; $350,826 for flood mitigation on Haltom Road; $198,106 for flood mitigation on Quail Road; and $546,503 for flood mitigation on Cunningham Road. 

Other flood mitigation projects no longer need the funding because they are completed, have been scrapped or cost less than expected, Dyke said. For example, the city is no longer purchasing properties in the Central Arlington Heights neighborhood to mitigate flooding and doesn’t need $2.25 million in additional funds. 

Carlos Flores, who represents District 2 and the area that will become Panther Island, clarified that the new funding structure will not impact the Diamond Hill neighborhood or an ongoing flood mitigation project at NE 28th Street and Decatur Road. Construction is expected to be completed this fall. 

“We would never stop an active construction project,” Dyke said of the Northside project. “But definitely, it’s moving forward.” 

Utility relocations are complex because they encroach on land owned by the Corps of Engineers and require substantial expertise on the part of the contractor, Dyke said. 

“We just don’t have experience, I think, we don’t have historical bids on doing anything like that, because that’s a typical Corps of Engineer project, not a city project,” Dyke said. 

Councilwoman Elizabeth Beck, who represents District 9, questioned why the city’s expected bid for the Grand Avenue utility relocation project more than doubled from an initial estimate of $10 million to an actual cost of $22.8 million. 

The issue should not be solely attributed to rising inflation, Beck said. Beck expressed concern that the city is consistently underbidding for large infrastructure projects. 

“We’re low balling what we’re telling our residents,” Beck said. “That’s not good for y’all, it’s not good for the city.” 

Burghdoff and Dyke’s presentation clarified the information contained in an informal report released last week,  Mayor Mattie Parker said. In the future, city officials should consider explaining complex information – such as the reallocation of funds related to stormwater projects – in a presentation to council members rather than publishing information in informal worksession reports. 

“I think maybe our greatest mistake here is not actually the information within it,” Parker said. “It’s how we present it.” 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. 

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...

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Rachel BehrndtGovernment Accountability Reporter

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...