Rollover Pass (also called Rollover Fish Pass) is part of a low-elevation area and was subject to overflow during high tides or storms. A man-made strait was cut through private property on the Bolivar Peninsula and links the Gulf of Mexico with Rollover Bay and East Bay on the upper Texas coast in eastern Galveston County ( ). Located on property owned by the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club and managed by the Gilchrist Community Association, the Pass was opened in 1955 by the Texas Game and Fish Commission when they were granted an easement by the property owners. The intent was to increase bay water salinity, promote growth of submerged vegetation, and help marine fish to and from spawning and feeding areas in the bay.
The Pass is about 1600 feet long and 200 feet wide. Large cement walls frame the Gulf side (southeast of Texas Highway 87) and steel bulkheads contain the sides of the Rollover Bay side northwest of the highway.
Rollover Pass earned its name from the practice of smugglers who, from the days of Spanish rule through prohibition, avoided the Galveston customs station by rolling barrels of import or export merchandise (i.e., whiskey and rum) over the narrowest part of the peninsula. A Texas Historical Marker, Number 7166, was erected in 1963 but was damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. However, a portion of the marker is still visible and several lines of text refer to the action of the smugglers.
Rollover Pass is a popular location for fishing and birding. Visitors come from all over the U.S. to camp, fish, and enjoy family recreation activities. Parking and camping are available on all four quadrants and handicapped or elderly persons are able to fish while sitting in their vehicle.
A unique feature of Rollover Pass is the constantly changing water flow which brings a great variety of marine life through the area. Incoming tides bring in salt water and organisms within, while outgoing tides not only bring them out again but also contain brackish or fresh water species.
Marine life seen at Rollover Pass includes blacktip sharks, red drum, black drum, speckled sea trout, flounder, sheephead, ladyfish or skipjacks, gafftop sail catfish, hardhead catfish, ribbonfish, needlefish, tripletail, Spanish mackerel, jack crevale, tarpon, mullet, mud minnows, shad or menhaden, dogfish, brown shrimp, white shrimp, sea otters, blue crabs, stone crabs, and fiddler crabs. Endangered sea turtles have also been sighted there, specifically green turtles and loggerhead turtles.
Also seen are alligators and gar, especially during heavy rains which cause freshwater runoff from rivers and bayous which drain into the Galveston Bay complex. Alligators travel from the back bayous and ponds into the salt water so that any parasites on their hide can be cleaned off.
Rollover Pass and Rollover Bay are a significant winter destination for many migrant bird species coming down from the northern states. It is named as a destination point by several birding organizations and in the Texas Park and Wildlife Department Bolivar Loop map. In addition, the Rollover Pass area is a federally protected critical habitat for the piping plover, an endangered species.
On the morning of September 13, 2008 Hurricane Ike came ashore near Galveston, Texas. The storm surge associated with Hurricane Ike devastated the adjoining coastal communities of Gilchrist (northeast from Rollover Pass) and Caplen (southwest from Rollover Pass) along with most of the Bolivar Peninsula.
As of 2014, homes and businesses have been rebuilt in the area, new residents are settling in, and visitors once again are able to travel through that section of Highway 87. The Rollover Pass bridge has two lanes open instead of the original three. But Texas Historical Marker Number 7166 has yet to be replaced at the Pass.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS, GALVESTON DIVISION
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13-CV-00126
On April 19, 2013, the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, Inc. and the Gilchrist Community Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, against Jerry Patterson, Commissioner; the Texas General Land Office; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Col. Christopher W. Sallese, District Engineer, Galveston District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, Commander and Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army.
The lawsuit was amended on January 13, 2014 to include additional assertions not discovered until after the original had been filed.
The private property owners, Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, and the GCA which manages the Pass property, have filed this suit to protect the Pass from being filled in with dirt and closed completely, thereby devastating an already storm-ravaged area and causing extreme hardship to the businesses who rely on tourism, and homeowners trying to rebuild after Hurricane Ike. A petition with 2,868 signatures has many comments which demonstrate the commitment of the signers to keep the Pass open.
Some of the concerns of both sides are: private property rights; the best fishing location for handicapped persons on the Texas coast; government coercion; beach erosion; siltation of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; freshwater diversion; and economic effects.
Issues listed in the original lawsuit included: the GLO has no ownership rights to the property; false representation of data to obtain a federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to close the Pass; violations of the U.S. Constitution; violations of Environmental Policy, Clean Water and Rehabilitation Act requirements; failure by the USACE to analyze impacts of actions by those closing the Pass; failure to perform analyses of alternatives in the best interest of the public and socioeconomic impact; Rehabilitation Act discrimination against mobility impaired persons by not providing any alternate accessible place; discrimination against disabled persons in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; failure to consider and incorporate changes from Texas' recent judicial decision regarding public vs. private beaches; failure to address alternate structures such as jetties or groins to control sediment; and declaratory relief or injunction to prevent closure of Rollover Pass by the GLO
An additional study by Lawrence Dunbar, Professional Engineer, has highlighted severe discrepancies in the money calculations by the GLO and their consultant Taylor Engineering for dredging the Intracoastal Waterway.
In December 2013 a video was produced and released by The Electric Theater Radio Hour in Galveston, Texas. This video, entitled "Rollover Pass battles Patterson & Galveston County on eminent domain threat" (sic) is hosted by George Lee, who interviews Ted Vega, president of the Gilchrist Community Association. It outlines the conflict between the GCA and elected state and county officials, specifically Jerry Patterson, former commissioner of the Texas General Land Office; Mark Henry, county judge of Galveston County; and Ryan Dennard, commissioner of Precinct 1 in Galveston (term expires 2016) which includes Rollover Pass.
Photos by outdoor author and photographer Ed Snyder and others as well as artwork from young local area students are featured in the video and it can be viewed on You Tube.
- Bolivar! Gulf Coast peninsula: features and facts, history, photographs, maps. Crystal Beach, TX: Peninsula Press of Texas. 1985. ISBN 0-9614885-0-6.
- Rollover Pass Handbook of Texas Online
- Ted Lee, Jr Eubanks; Robert A. Behrstock; Seth Davidson (2008). Finding Birds On The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast (Texas A&M Nature Guides). College Station: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1-58544-534-7.
- Bolivar Loop Texas Park and Wildlife Department, Great Texas Wildlife Trails
- Office of the Federal Register https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2001/07/10/01-16905/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-final-determination-of-critical-habitat-for-wintering Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Determination of Critical Habitat for Wintering Piping Plovers
- Rollover Pass Litigation Guidry News Service; April 19, 2013
- Guidry News Service, http://www.guidrynews.com/14February/03414Complaint.pdf
- Petition, change.org: Galveston County Judge and Commissioners, Do Not Take Eminent Domain Action Against Rollover Pass
- rolloverpasstexas.com Gilchrist Community Association
- Wayne Stupka and Ted Vega, "Keep Rollover Pass Open" Crystal Beach Local News
- Severance vs. Patterson, Cause No. 09-0387
- Ted Vega and Wayne Stupka, "Rollover Pass Litigation" April 19, 2013, Crystal Beach Local News,
- "Rollover Pass Dredging Study" Guidry News