BOLIVAR PENINSULA — Closing Rollover Pass would cause “significant harm” to water quality and to fishing in East Bay, according to a new environmental study commissioned by opponents of the state’s plan to fill in the man-made cut that runs through the Gilchrist Community between the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay.

The study was authored by Larry Dunbar, a water resources and environmental engineer in Sugar Land, and commissioned by an attorney representing the Gilchrist Community Association and the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club.

In April, the groups filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas land commissioner and secretary of the U.S. Army in an effort to stop the state’s plans to close down the pass.

Salinity levels for oyster production in the bay are in an ideal range, Dunbar writes in the study.

However, “these levels would dramatically drop due to the freshwater inflows entering the bay that would no longer be offset by the saltwater inflows from the pass if it were to be closed.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to issue a permit allowing the General Land Office to close the pass was based on an erroneous computer model, said Jim Blackburn, the attorney representing the groups opposed to the pass’ closure.

The official state computer model for Galveston Bay, TxBLEND, was modified by a Texas General Land Office consultant to remove sources of freshwater inflow into East Bay, Blackburn said.

“We shouldn’t close the pass until we have all the correct information out there,” he said.

The new study relies on an unmodified computer model, which accounts for a projected increase in freshwater inflow resulting from the pass’ closure, which would harm saltwater fish and shellfish in the bay, according to the study.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has said that the pass increases erosion in the region and leaves the peninsula vulnerable to damage from a storm surge.

Jim Suydam, a spokesman for the General Land Office, said Tuesday he had not seen the new study. But he said that closing Rollover Pass was the best thing to do for the environment in East Bay and on the Bolivar Peninsula.

“Every natural resource agency is in support of closing the pass,” Suydam said. “The GLO isn’t going this alone. It’s a man-made pass, and it’s time to let Mother Nature take over.”

Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5244 or alex.macon@galvnews.com.

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(11) comments

Ron Shelby

This article is lacking significant commentary. How does the County Commissioner who is over the Bolivar Penninsula feel about its closing? What does he believe? Does he support closing it? Since its the area is generally unincorporated, he needs to comment. Its like not asking the Mayor of Galveston for a comment on a public housing story. I'd be interested in the Commisioner's court overall.

Robert Low

can someone tell me what the oyster beds did before the pass was opened? I understand from our grandfathers that you could see the bottom of the bay because the water quality was so good. I also remember them catching tarpon on the beach which we have not seen since the 70's.

Just wondering, I know oysters like the salt water better.

Gary Miller

There were fewer oyster reefs befor the pass was opened. When hurricanes opened the pass oyster production increased. That was the original reason to keep it open.

Jarvis Buckley

I agree with Ron, time for county Rep and court to man up. Let us know their thoughts.

Steve Fouga

It's a little funny that this report discusses the harm that reduced salinity will bring to East Bay, and other reports discuss the harm that increased salinity has brought to the bays in recent drought years.

But that's why it's a controversial topic, at least among the few dozen or so who actually care...

Don Ciaccio

How can putting it back to its natural state harm the bay? It doesn't, that's how. Hence, natural state. What a crock of BS.

Leon Lion

You can pay for a study to come to any conclusion that you want if you are the one writing the check. [wink]

Kevin Lang

How about just letting Mother Nature decide if the pass should stay open or not? Why not just stop taking actions to keep it open, and don't spend any money to close it. Monitor it. If it starts becoming evident that the closure would be too disruptive, then resume the cutting and dredging that keeps it open now. Otherwise, just let it fill in over time. If GLO believes that leaving it open would leave the area more vulnerable to storm damage, then put the money for closing the pass into a trust for covering the state's liabilitities in such cases. Of course, that supposes that the GLO plan is one that is tied more towards environmental stability and storm damage mitigation. My idea probably wouldn't go over well if the primary reason is to channel state funds to a valuable campaign contributor.

Joel Martin

The pass doesn't fill up. It's the ICW that has to be dredged to keep barge traffic moving.

Gary Miller

Logic fails when politicians want to spend OPM.

Gary Miller

If memory serves, hurricanes opened the pass several times in the past. When it was open people noticed east bay was more productive.
That's why it was opened.
To maintain high water quality and improve East bay productivity.
Oysters prefere brackish water but not fresh water. Shrimp, crab, shellfish and finfish nurseries are more productive with reduced salt levels but not fresh water.

Is this a spending project someone plans to profit from?
Then another spending project to reopen the pass when it's proven East bay was better with the pass open.

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