AUSTIN — Rebuilding Bolivar — and the peninsula’s beaches and dunes — requires closing Rollover Pass and constructing a world-class fishing pier in its place.
I know this isn’t popular with everyone in the Gilchrist community, but it’s the right thing to do for the Bolivar Peninsula. The economic and environmental benefits are clear.
The facts are simple: Rollover Pass accelerates the erosion of Bolivar beaches, sucking the sand into one of the nation’s most important shipping lanes where it must be dredged out at taxpayer expense. As long as Rollover Pass is sucking that precious beach sand into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, I can’t justify spending millions more in taxpayers’ money to rebuild the beaches and restore a healthy dune system on the peninsula.
None of this is news. Folks on Bolivar have known Rollover contributes to beach erosion since the state first dredged it in 1954. One study, done in 1989, showed that Rollover Pass dumps more than 290,000 cubic yards of sand into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway each year — that’s more than 29,000 dump truck loads of sand that could have been on Bolivar beaches.
Rollover Pass also alters the salinity of Galveston Bay, killing off what were once commercial oyster beds and altering the fragile estuarine system that serves as one of the most important cradles of the gulf’s many creatures.
Altering the pass — from building jetties to installing underwater baffles to building an artificial reef — wouldn’t address all of these issues. Rollover’s rusty bulkheads and generally dilapidated condition would also require a complete rebuild, costing taxpayers millions. That is why after Hurricane Ike, the 81st Legislature — with the support of local lawmakers — approved $5.85 million to close the pass.
Since then, I have tried to work with the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, soliciting its input on the design of a new pier and a fair price for its land. Those efforts ended when the club filed a federal lawsuit last month and Galveston County is now moving forward to purchase the property.
Many fishermen, whose families have enjoyed Rollover Pass for generations now, are angry that their elected public servants would seek to close it. Their concerns are valid. Rollover Pass is what has drawn fishermen to the peninsula for nearly 60 years, and as Gilchrist continues to recover from hurricanes Ike, this community needs all the economic activity it can get. This is why I am committed to working with Galveston County to build a new park and fishing pier at the cut.
As an elected public servant, I know not every decision will be popular with everyone. But I’m confident that closing Rollover Pass is in the best interest of Bolivar and I’m willing to go forward on the advice of none other than the first president of Texas, Sam Houston: “Do right and risk the consequences.”
JERRY PATTERSON was re-elected to a third term as Texas Land Commissioner in 2010 and is responsible for managing state assets, investments and mineral rights worth billions of dollars on behalf of the schoolchildren of Texas. He is a retired U.S. Marine, Vietnam veteran and former state senator.