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Rollover Pass

Rollover Pass is a man-made strait. It was cut into the Bolivar Peninsula in 1955 by the Texas Game and Fish Commission (which is now Texas Parks & Wildlife) at the peninsula’s narrowest point. The pass connected the Gulf of Mexico with Rollover Bay and was intended to improve water quality and salinity in the bay and help with fish migration while also improving local fishing conditions. Unfortunately, the Pass has also created severely damaging side effects that threaten public and private property and cost Texas and U.S. taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. In 2011, the Texas Legislature authorized the closure of Rollover Pass. In September of 2019, the General Land Office began the closure of the pass. Learn more about the project below.

FAQ

What is Rollover Pass?
Rollover Pass is a man-made strait. It was cut into the Bolivar Peninsula in 1955 by the Texas Game and Fish Commission (which is now Texas Parks & Wildlife) at the peninsula’s narrowest point. The pass connected the Gulf of Mexico with Rollover Bay and was intended to improve water quality and salinity in the bay and help with fish migration while also improving local fishing conditions.

Rollover Pass achieved the latter result and has become a popular fishing spot. Unfortunately, the Pass has also created severely damaging side effects that threaten public and private property and cost Texas and U.S. taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Why is Rollover Pass closing?
Rollover Pass threatens to make serious storms even more dangerous in two ways:

First, the pass has the capacity to trap Bolivar residents in a rising flood in the event of a storm. The State Highway 87 bridge that spans Rollover Pass is more vulnerable to damage from hurricanes and other major storms due to increased flow velocities. The pass threatens the highway and bridge, which is the only land access to the Bolivar Peninsula and the primary hurricane evacuation route. Damage to the bridge could prevent people from reaching safety ahead of approaching storms. Post-storm recovery would also be significantly impacted by serious damage to the highway and bridge.

Second, the pass has shown significant signs of erosion, increasing the possibility that the walls and surrounding sidewalks may collapse at any time. Rollover Pass’ bulkheads, sidewalks, and handrails sustained damage from Hurricane Ike have not been fully repaired. Corrosion has left the tops of its steel walls jagged and has weakened its sheet piles, increasing the possibility that the walls may collapse and take the sidewalks with them. This poses a serious threat to anyone fishing or otherwise enjoying the pass.
In addition to the pressing safety concerns, Rollover Pass has created a harmful environment for the creatures who reside in the bay. Closing Rollover Pass makes environmental sense — it will restore Rollover Bay and nearby estuaries to their natural state, strengthening fish and oyster habitats. It also makes fiscal sense — it will save taxpayer money. Closing the pass is safe — left open, Rollover Pass leaves Bolivar residents in a precarious situation. As long as Rollover Pass remains open, human lives are on the line and could be lost in the next serious storm – that is not a risk worth taking. Closing Rollover Pass will help protect property and critical infrastructure against erosion and help the coast be better prepared for the next major storm.

How will the pass be closed?
The closure of Rollover Pas requires several steps. Sometimes, construction may not be visible to the passerby. The pass will be closed in three steps.

What happens to the fish that are in the pass?
During all construction activities, environmental monitors will be on-site to watch for any protected fish and game species, such as piping plover and red knots. The monitors will communicate with the equipment operators to protect animals and prevent any accidental harm. During the fill operations, any game fish and protected marine species still caught in the pass will be removed and safely released into the bay side of the pass under coordination with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

How does Rollover Pass damage the coastal environment?
Rollover Pass was intended to improve fishing conditions and promote fish passage from the Gulf to the inshore waters of Rollover Bay and East Bay. But studies have demonstrated the pass can bring too much saltwater into the bays and nearby estuaries, which hurts oysteries and fish habitats. Closing Rollover Pass will restore the bays to natural salinity levels, which will be beneficial for the fish and the oysteries residing in the bay.

How does Rollover Pass cause erosion, and why is this bad?
Within just a few years after being opened, Rollover Pass widened greatly due to erosion. Walls had to be installed to keep it from widening further. Studies over the years showed conclusively that Rollover Pass contributes to significant erosion on the beaches to its south and west, which deprives property owners of their shore.

Additionally, Rollover Pass causes sand and sediment to be diverted and deposited into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. This waterway is a key transit route for important transportation routes to and from Texas ports and cities. Some say a jetty would solve Rollover Pass’ serious erosion problem, but studies have shown this would not work. A jetty or jetties would not prevent sand loss from the peninsula’s beaches. Modifying the pass would also amount to rebuilding it entirely due to heavy corrosion of the steel walls that currently hold the pass open.

How much is Rollover Pass costing taxpayers?
Rollover Pass causes sand and sediment to be diverted and deposited into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The Intracoastal Waterway is a key transit route for goods and products to and from Texas ports and cities. To maintain navigability, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has to dredge the Rollover Pass segment of the Intracoastal Waterway every year to remove sediment, costing taxpayers from $600,000 to $1 million. The Texas General Land Office and Galveston County also have to add sand to the eroded beaches each year, costing about $166,000. The Texas Department of Transportation also spent $675,152.33 in emergency repairs after Hurricane Ike due to Rollover Pass, and the Land Office has spent more than $827,000 in federal matching funds for beach nourishment after three hurricanes from 2001 to 2008.

When will the pass construction begin?
Fencing was placed around the pass on September 30th, and construction is anticipated to conclude around April 2020 (date subject to change).

When will the pass construction end?
Fencing was placed around the pass on September 30th, and construction is anticipated to be concluded around April 2020 (date subject to change).

What will happen after Rollover Pass closes?
We understand that that Rollover Pass is a highly valued location for the Galveston community and fisherman across the state. Following closure, a public park and recreational area will be built on the former pass for everyone to enjoy. A fishing pier will also be built on the gulf side of the peninsula for fishermen and everyone who enjoys the gulf to have for generations to come. In addition, the Lauderdale Dock will be renovated by the General Land Office and Galveston County and will include a dedicated area for fishing.

What will the park look like?
Following closure, a public park and recreational area will be built on the former pass for everyone to enjoy. The GLO is currently in the process of applying for a permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to build. A very preliminary rendering of the proposed park and pier is below.

What will the pier look like?
A fishing pier will also be built on the gulf side of the peninsula for fishermen and everyone who enjoys the gulf to have for generations to come. A very preliminary r rendering of the proposed park and pier is below.

When will the park and pier be finished?
The Texas General Land Office is currently in the process of applying for an official permit for park and pier construction through the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Who authorized the closure of the pass?
The Texas Legislature and Governor Rick Perry approved funding to close Rollover Pass in 2009. Following the devastation of Hurricane Ike, the 81st Texas Legislature authorized the GLO to “undertake the modification or closure of a man-made pass or its environs between the Gulf of Mexico and an inland bay” if the Commissioner determines “that the pass causes or contributes to significant erosion of the shoreline of the adjacent beach.” (81st Leg., ch. 66, §1, eff. Sept 1, 2009).
Former Land Commissioner Patterson made this public determination in December 2011. Among other problems, exhaustive studies have shown that Rollover Pass significantly contributes to erosion on Bolivar beaches, poses health and safety risks, threatens the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs each year.

Why has it taken so long to close the pass?
After several years of unforeseen regulatory delays, a contractor has been secured for the closure of rollover pass (View Contract). The notice to proceed was issued on September 9th, 2019, and fencing was erected shortly after. The pass is now closed to the public, and fishing is not permitted.

Park Renderings

Park Rendering

Additional Resources