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Interesting article on Rollover Pass



"GALVESTON - An omission in a computer model led to faulty conclusions about the need to close Rollover Pass, a trench dug to bisect the Bolivar Peninsula more than 50 years ago that has become a fishing mecca, according to an attorney fighting the closure.

"This isn't something that happens by accident," said Jim Blackburn, attorney for Bolivar Peninsula residents fighting state efforts to close the pass.

Blackburn said a consultant for the Texas General Land Office left out data about freshwater inflow into the East Bay from a computer program used in a study to justify closing the pass. When the information is included, Blackburn said, it shows that closing Rollover Pass will result in so much freshwater that it could harm oyster beds.

Blackburn's accusation, if verified, would discredit a claim by the Land Office that closing Rollover Pass would end the harm caused by too much salt water flowing into East Bay.

The Land Office also contends that closing the pass would slow erosion of the peninsula shore line and would end expensive dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of sand washed through the pass into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Land Office spokesman Jim Suydam said his agency hired Jacksonville, Fla.,-based Taylor Engineering Inc., but otherwise was not involved in the study criticized by Blackburn.

"I don't think they cheated," Suydam said. "The Land Office doesn't direct a contractor about how to do a study."

Taylor Engineering could not be reached for comment.

Suydam said that the closure of the pass has been studied for years and is supported by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The closing is opposed by many of the residents of the Gilchrist Community that straddles Rollover Pass.

The Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, which owns the property the pass cuts through, and the Gilchrist Community Association hired Blackburn, who in April filed a federal lawsuit on their behalf aimed at halting the closure.

The Land Office in the meantime entered into an agreement with Galveston County Commissioners Court to condemn Rollover Pass so closure operations could begin. The Land Office has offered to build a fishing pier to replace the pass.

Blackburn hired engineer Lawrence Dunbar to review the study by the Land Office consultant that was used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do an environmental assessment. Dunbar's report says that the computer model used by Taylor Engineering was flawed. "This model is totally invalid and unreliable," Dunbar wrote.

Dunbar's report says that the Taylor Engineering model failed to account for freshwater flows from Oyster Bayou, which he says is the primary source of fresh water to the East Bay. The report also said the Taylor model did not consider the Needmore Diversion project now under construction, which will put more freshwater into East Bay.

"It is my opinion that the closing of Rollover Pass would have adverse impacts to the water quality in East Bay, specifically to the dramatic lowering of salinity levels in the bay," Dunbar wrote. He said current salinity levels in East Bay are in the ideal range for oyster production.

Dunbar's report said that the reason for digging Rollover Pass was to increase the salinity of East Bay and make it hospitable to oysters and other marine life."

We will have to watch the fall out, and see who got "paid."

I see that this has not made the local news.....


I don't really know if closing it is a good idea or not. Yes, I know it is not a natural pass, but the run-off to the bay has changed quite a bit since the 1950s when it was built. I question the assertion that east bay is over-saline due to the pass. I have seen Trinity as fresh as Lake Livingston. Certainly, due to development, there is considerably more run-off than there was in years past.

All I really care about is what is best for Galveston Bay.

Finn Maccumhail:
I'm skeptical of the criticism when the guy trying to debunk the GLO's engineering study is being paid by the people who don't want the pass closed.

I'm all in favor of closing the pass as everything I've read and anectdotal evidence of people I know who have lived in Anahuac/Winnie and fished East Bay since the 30s is that Rollover has been one of many detrimental changes. Perhaps closing Rollover won't fix everything but it will help.

Trinity has a lot more freshwater inputs and even so, pre-ROP, East Bay was typically sub-10ppm in salinity. Almost immediately EB salinity levels jumped over 20ppm and in many areas 25ppm+.

ROP via increased salinity and increased sediment has hurt ROP- the salinity killed off the grass. Widgeon grass was reportedly the predominant grass in EB pre-ROP and from what I understand it cannot withstand high salinity levels. When you stress the grass with high salinity and add in the increased turbidity due to sediment inflow you kill off the grass. Plus, the increased salinity allows for the parasitic oyster drill snail to flourish (at 20ppm+). So now you've killed off (or greatly harmed) two major factors in filtering the water. That can't be good.

As for the popular bogeyman of "real estate developers"- Bolivar cannot support any sort of large scale development. There is simply too little ground to build on. You can build big beach houses but the infrastructure cannot support condo developments like on Galveston's West End. First, there's not sufficient wastewater treatment plants. You'd have to build a new one and you're talking hundreds of millions of dollars if you can even get permitted. Plus the building code requirements for sewer lines, etc.- most new construction there is on a septic system and you can't do septic for condos. Bottom line, the costs and risks of development on Bolivar are far too high and the returns far too low to support development of the level needed to put juice behind closing ROP.

Dave Kelly:
Along the line of salinity, how much has the daming of the Trinity at Livingston affected the  pp/m count?


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