Fort Worth residents have until June 4 to share their thoughts on whether the city should be allowed to alter a federal floodway as part of the new City Hall construction.
The comment period is necessary for the city to obtain a Section 408 permit, which will allow construction crews to begin grading at the former Pier 1 building at 100 Energy Way.
When the city initially purchased the new City Hall building, it did so unaware that construction plans would run afoul of a federal floodway. The city has spent $7.6 million on delays and permitting costs related to the proposed floodway alteration, which would allow for the creation of a 28,000-square-foot building, a parking garage, sidewalk, access ramps and plaza.
What is a Section 408 permit, anyways?
The city is going through a time-intensive and costly process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to secure a Section 408 permit. A 408 permit allows the applicant to alter a civil works project, like a floodway easement, when the change will not harm the public or reduce the efficacy of the project, said Clay Church, public affairs specialist with the corps’ Fort Worth district.
The process has set back construction by about 18 months, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage. While the building was originally expected to be open for business later this year, developers now expect the new Fort Worth City Council chambers to open in 2024.
Now, the Army Corps of Engineers will consider public comments before making a final determination on the construction plan. Tanyan Farley of Athenian Group, who serves as project manager for New City Hall, acknowledged a long process has led up to this moment.
“There are a lot of well-documented, well written, well thought-out rules and regulations to keep people safe to ensure that we don’t impact the federal floodway in a negative manner,” Farley said. “We’ve had a great partnership between TRWD and the Corps of Engineers and we’re happy to be in this public comment period.”
How do I submit public comment?
The public notice can be found here. Comments must be submitted to CESWFfirstname.lastname@example.org before June 4 and reference the Section 408 Request ID # and project name. The Request ID # is 408-SWF-2022-0004, and the project name is Fort Worth City Hall.
Telephone inquiries and requests for more information should be directed to Jason Story, at (817) 886-1852, or to CESWFemail@example.com.
Comments supporting, opposing or identifying concerns that the Corps of Engineers should consider in its decision process are all welcome, according to the agency’s public notice issued on May 5.
The Corps of Engineers will decide whether to grant the alteration request based on several evaluation factors, including impacts to the usefulness of the floodway, whether the alteration has negative impacts on the public, and whether it’s compliant with environmental regulations.
So far, the federal agency has already determined that the alteration will not harm endangered or threatened species or affect historic properties, according to the public notice.
Farley is hopeful the Corps of Engineers will evaluate public comments without issues and allow the permit to move forward. Once all relevant agencies, including the Tarrant Regional Water District, sign off on the permit, the city of Fort Worth can begin grading the site and prepare it for foundation work.
“It is the first domino, if you will, for a number of others,” Farley said.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at email@example.com.
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