Plan to fill in Rollover Pass proceeding
By T.J. Aulds
The Daily News
Published November 19, 2009
The Texas General Land Office next week is expected to submit its application to fill in Rollover Pass, the waterway that cuts through the Bolivar Peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston Bay.
State officials told county commissioners Wednesday that the closure of the pass will come with the construction of a new fishing pier to keep some of the recreation draw of the area intact.
The application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the final phase of the process before the pass can be closed. Once — and if — the application is approved, the state land office would begin filling in the 200-foot wide, one-eighth mile long channel as early as January 2011.
Ray Newby, a geomorphologist with the land office, told commissioners that filling the pass would not be done all at once but instead in phases and would take up to four months to complete.
Newby also announced that the state wouldn’t leave anglers who frequent Rollover Pass high and dry. The land office is proposing building a large fishing pier that would extend out into the Gulf of Mexico from land adjacent to where the pass cuts through the peninsula. The pier is a trade-off for closing the pass, which is a “lightning rod” issue for many residents on Bolivar, especially members of the Gilchrist Community Association, which has been fighting the state’s plan to close up the pass.
Last month, the association sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison asking her to step in and stop the closure. Opponents of the closure argue it would kill the Gilchrist economy, which already was mauled by Hurricane Ike.
The state legislature earlier this year approved $5.85 million to fill in the pass, and the land office applied for $4.37 million in federal hazard mitigation flood prevention grant money to pay for the project.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson supports the pass being closed in part because the state spends about $1 million a year dredging it. He also argues that the pass leads to greater beach erosion along the peninsula that contributed to severe flooding problems and may have made the storm surge damage from Ike worse, especially in the Crystal Beach area.
The land office is pressing ahead with filling the pass because the money has to be spent before the start of the next legislative session in 2011.
Newby said the land office plans to hold a public hearing on the closure plans either in February or March.