The state this week took another step toward closing Rollover Pass — a popular fishing spot on Bolivar Peninsula — nearly a year after the county and the previous landowner agreed on a settlement for the property.
The Texas General Land Office on Monday posted a request for proposals for construction services associated with closing the pass by filling in the man-made cut between the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay, agency spokeswoman Brittany Eck said.
This week, anglers and spring breakers continued to fish at the spot, which the county’s parks department has been maintaining since agreeing in June to a $1.7 million settlement with the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club for the 16 acres of land, officials said.
The state has long sought to close the pass, which it argues worsens coastal erosion. But the closure has been challenged in court several times. One lawsuit remains and is in the 14th Court of Appeals where the Gilchrist Community Association is arguing the possession was an unlawful taking of land, said Ted Vega, president of the association.
A lower court ruled the association did not have standing to sue because it didn’t own or have a compelling stake in the land, said Robert Boemer, an attorney for the county. But the association appealed the decision, arguing in a Friday filing that the association had standing because it leased some of the land.
The association had long been a part of the litigation, but the county moved to have the group dismissed from the case after the association’s board disagreed with the county’s terms of the agreement, the brief said.
The county has 30 days to respond to the brief, Boemer said.
Ongoing litigation won’t keep the state or county from moving forward on the land, Boemer said.
“The county was entitled to take possession and can basically do anything it wants with that land in accordance with state and federal law,” Boemer said.
The pass was created through a public-private partnership and dredged by the state in 1954. It cuts through land, creating a fast-moving stream across the peninsula between the Gulf and Galveston Bay.
But the pass causes erosion and the state argues it costs taxpayers at least $650,000 a year to rebuild beaches around the pass and even more to dredge the Intracoastal Waterway because the pass channels sand into it. Those opposed to the closure have argued the state’s assessments of the pass’ effects are based on flawed science.
In January 2016, County Judge Mark Henry and commissioners Stephen Holmes, Ken Clark and Ryan Dennard voted to use eminent domain to take the property.
Landowners immediately fought the closure, contesting the county’s condemnation suit.
In April, County Court at Law Judge Barbara Roberts ruled the county has the eminent domain rights to condemn the property, according to court documents. The judge did not rule on how much the county would pay for the property. In June, the county and the landowner reached a $1.7 million settlement and the county took possession of the land.
The land office will oversee plans to fill in the pass and the construction of a public park in its place, including a pier, Boemer said.
For months, the county’s parks department has managed collecting the trash and running the portable bathroom facilities at the park, he said.