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Rollover Pass

The closure of Rollover Pass is nearly complete. We are currently in the “Construction Phase” of the project. Though the water is gone, there is still work to be done to create a seamless transition from pass to closure. The construction team is now backfilling the pass with “fill material,” which consists of concrete rubble, standard quality sand, and beach quality sand. After this process is complete, beach quality sand will be used to create a new dune on the Gulf side. Next, the temporary walls will be removed, and stormwater runoff swales (shallow ditches) will be graded to create positive drainage on the Bay side. The contractor will then clean up the site and remove their equipment and fencing. The County will manage the construction of a new Bayside park shortly after the closure construction is complete.

Rollover Pass 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 as well as help with fish migration. Unfortunately, opening the pass 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

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

First, the pass had the capacity to trap Bolivar residents in a rising flood. The State Highway 87 bridge that spans Rollover Pass was vulnerable to damage from hurricanes and other major storms due to increased flow velocities. The pass threatened 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 caused significant erosion, increasing the possibility that the walls and surrounding sidewalks could collapse at any time. Rollover Pass’ bulkheads, sidewalks, and handrails sustained damage from Hurricane Ike and had not been fully repaired. Corrosion left the tops of its steel walls jagged and weakened its sheet piles, increasing the possibility that the walls may collapse and take the sidewalks with them. This posed a serious threat to anyone fishing or otherwise enjoying the pass.

Rollover Pass also caused 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 had to dredge the Rollover Pass segment of the Intracoastal Waterway every year to remove sediment, costing taxpayers from $600,000 to $1 million.


In addition to the pressing safety concerns, Rollover Pass created a harmful environment for the creatures who reside in the bay. Closing Rollover Pass will restore Rollover Bay and nearby estuaries to the natural state, strengthening fish and oyster habitats.

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 the pass makes fiscal sense — it will save taxpayer money. Closing the pass is safe — left open, Rollover Pass leaves Bolivar residents in a precarious situation. 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 Pass requires several steps:

What phase of the closure is happening now?

We are currently in the “Construction Phase.” The construction team is now backfilling the pass with “fill material,” which consists of concrete rubble, standard quality sand, and beach quality sand.

What happened to the fish that were in the pass?
During all construction activities, environmental monitors were on-site to watch for any protected fish and game species. The monitors communicated with the equipment operators to protect animals and prevent any accidental harm. During the fill operations, game fish and protected marine species still caught in the pass were safely removed if at all possible and safely released into the bay side of the pass under coordination with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

How did 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 demonstrated that the pass actually brought too much saltwater into the bays and nearby estuaries, which hurt 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 did 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 showed conclusively that Rollover Pass contributed to significant erosion on the beaches to its south and west, which deprived property owners of their shore.

Additionally, Rollover Pass caused 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.

What about other alternatives?

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, but rather escalate the sand loss on the peninsula’s beaches.

Modifying the pass is not an option, as this would have amounted to rebuilding it entirely due to heavy corrosion of the steel walls that held the pass open.

How much did Rollover Pass cost taxpayers?
Rollover Pass caused 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 had 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 had to add sand to the eroded beaches each year, costing about $166,000. The Texas Department of Transportation also had to spend $675,152.33 in emergency repairs to the bridge spanning the pass after Hurricane Ike. Additionally, the Land Office spent more than $827,000 in federal matching funds for beach nourishment after three hurricanes from 2001 to 2008.

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

What will happen after the Rollover Pass closure is complete?
We understand that that Rollover Pass was a highly valued location for the Galveston community and fisherman across the state. Following closure, Galveston County will initiate construction of a public park and recreational area on top of the former pass. A fishing pier will also be built on the gulf side of the peninsula. In addition, the Lauderdale Boat Ramp and Dock will be renovated by the General Land Office and Galveston County and will include a dedicated area for fishing. The GLO has submitted a permit application to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to receive approval for the pier.

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. A very preliminary rendering of the proposed park 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 rendering of the proposed pier is below. The GLO has applied for a permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to build.

When will the park be finished?
Due to the need for a full environmental impact assessment before any further construction begins, plans for the park cannot be implemented until Rollover Pass closure is entirely complete. Estimated deadline for park competition is December 2022.

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 contributed to erosion on Bolivar beaches, posed health and safety risks, threatened the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and costed taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs each year.

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

Park Renderings

Park Rendering

Additional Resources


Before:

Before
Drone footage capturing the erosion occurring at Rollover Pass before the construction began

 

Current Progress:

After
As of April 1, tremendous progress has been made on the closure of Rollover Pass. Although the closure is not yet complete, it is evident that already, many of the damaging effects previously caused by the pass have been resolved.