BOLIVAR PENINSULA — Opponents of the plan to close Rollover Pass argue the Texas General Land Office is overestimating the yearly dredging costs that come from keeping the man-made cut that runs through the Gilchrist community open.
In a study commissioned by the Gilchrist Community Association and the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, Larry Dunbar, a water resources and environmental engineer in Sugar Land, stated the $1 million extra the land office claims it costs to dredge the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway because of the pass is too high. The dredging costs are likely $40,000 to $60,000, Dunbar stated in his study.
After Hurricane Ike wiped out almost all of Gilchrist in 2008, officials with the land office sought to shut down the pass, which was created in the mid-1950s through a public-private partnership to connect the Gulf with East Galveston Bay.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the land office permission to close the pass in 2012. But the Gilchrist Community Association and the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, and their attorney, Jim Blackburn, in April filed a lawsuit in federal court against the land commissioner and secretary of the U.S. Army to stop the state’s plans.
Land office officials said they would be saving $1 million a year by closing Rollover Pass, “and we just don’t think that’s true,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn argued that Dunbar’s study showed that the land office’s consultant, Taylor Engineering, used certain documents to reach the estimated cost but ignored others.
In his report, Dunbar states that Taylor Engineering used a 1989 study to reach its cost estimate, while ignoring a 2000 study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that found smaller sediment deposits coming from the pass.
“We don’t think you can use a document for some purposes and then ignore findings that frankly cut the other way,” Blackburn said.
This is the second study released by opponents of the move to close the pass.
In a previous study, the groups argued that closing Rollover Pass would cause “significant harm” to water quality and to fishing in East Bay.
Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the land office, said the studies on Rollover Pass were an attempt to “muddy the waters.”
The studies “distract from the fact that a vast majority of coastal experts and local elected officials agree that Rollover Pass erodes Bolivar beaches and is a pretty expensive ‘free’ fishing spot for Texas taxpayers,” Suydam said.