Death of Rollover Pass somewhat an exaggeration?

It seemed like a done deal. One day I would wake up and take a drive on Interstate-10 from Beaumont to Winnie, then head south on State Hwy. 124 to High Island, and finally take Texas 87 onto the Bolivar Peninsula where I would find … nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. You see, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) has planned to fill in the popular man-made cut between the Gulf of Mexico and East Galveston Bay called “Rollover Pass.” Money had been appropriated from the stingy Texas Legislature and Jerry Patterson, Texas Land Commissioner, said it was a done deal.

 “Patterson took one of the last remaining steps required by the Legislature to close Rollover this week by posting his declaration in the Texas Register that the pass causes increased erosion and needs to be closed,” a GLO press release from December 2011 declared.

But deal it is, maybe just not a done deal.

Rollover has been a popular, free fishing spot for anglers who otherwise might not find a Texas Gulf fishing place. The less-moneyed and the wheelchair bound fit into those categories. It was built for recreation and it has given back plenty. But studies say the artificial channel has caused severe beach erosion. All one has had to do over the years is walk around to the west of the pass to see some significant desedimentation. The last time I had a really close look at the erosion was about 15 years ago and that was before three hurricanes and probably a tropical storm or two came calling.

The state land office, headed by retired Marine fighter pilot Lt. Col. Jerry Patterson, is charged with caring for Texas beaches and GLO plans to build a 1,000-foot pier for anglers after filling in Rollover. Patterson is also a considerable Texas pol, having served in the Legislature and who plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2014.

A February editorial in our local daily newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise, said it was time to piss on the fire and call in the dogs at Rollover. Well, they didn’t put it exactly that way.

But the property is owned by the local community association, as well as the rod and gun club, which includes conservationists among its number, whose members say: “Hold on for one cotton-pickin’ minute!” The club says it has plans to help enhance the spot and, basically, says Patterson can take his pier and stick it up his leather neck.

Bolivar of years past was pretty much the egalitarian Upper Texas coastal spot even up to the time much of Crystal Beach and other sections of the peninsula were flattened in 2008 by Hurricane Ike. One can only look at the rebuilding going on and surmise that the “Phoenix” version of Bolivar — raised from the ashes — will be much pricier. The beach itself changed in tenor over the years after Galveston Island, across the bay, outlawed alcohol on its beaches. Thus, Crystal Beach became the “party.”

The spot adjacent to Rollover has been home to bars and bait houses in past years. At watering holes there, and at the Ship’s Wheel, one could always find the colorful characters who searched for their lives and who seemed to get caught in the sea drift. It really has nothing to do with good nor ill. It’s just another hue of beaches.

Other worries such as the pass causing changes in the bay’s salinity levels exist on top of the erosion problem, the latter which is fought all up and down the beaches along the now washed out Hwy. 87, from McFaddin Beach to High Island.

Scientifically, I couldn’t say what would be the best answer to the question: Should the GLO should go ahead, fill in Rollover Pass and build the pier? I feel like the growing Houston-area population and money could very well turn Bolivar into a continuation of Galveston, which can be accessed by a very charming and energizing ferry ride. That’s not to say Galveston is not without its charms. I love the town. But it isn’t Bolivar of yesteryear.

The GLO and other entities across our country are fighting beach erosion. It doesn’t just happen on the Upper Texas Coast. It seems like where there is a will to save Rollover Pass, then a way to mitigate its problems must be found and that doesn’t include just pouring money down a hole. Almost $6 million was allocated to close the pass and build the pier. Estimates to thwart the effects of Rollover are for as much as $1 million yearly, according to some figures. Of course, the pier will need upkeep. It will have to be built tough to survive future storms and might not at that.

So as Houston Chronicle outdoors writer Shannon Tompkins says in his piece I have linked, there is a “pass impasse.” Call it what you want, it is more than just about fishing.


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