By Paul Gable
It appears that the International Drive completion has been hit with a type of ecoterrorism by two environmental groups opposed to the project.
As we reported over the weekend, the Coastal Conservation League and South Carolina Wildlife Federation appealed the SCDHEC decision to issue permits for the project at the last possible hour.
This attempt of these two groups to put another obstacle in the way of the International Drive project, which is much needed for traffic relief in the Carolina Forest area, appears to be for no other reason than to further delay, delay, delay.
Consider the following definitions from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Ecoterrorism is defined as sabotage intended to hinder activities that are considered damaging to the environment.
Sabotage is defined as a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity or corporation through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction.
While the form of ecoterrorism we are talking about is not violent, hindering the building (activities) of International Drive by obstruction through the appeal and possibly court process seems to easily fall within the definitions.
A lifelong friend of mine who is a retired licensed professional civil engineer in New Jersey and New York said some of these environmental groups exist for no other reason than to object to projects. “Their goal is delay, delay, delay with the hope of stretching the project out long enough and adding enough additional cost to the project that it will eventually be walked away from and they are very good at it,” he said.
That surely seems to be the objective with International Drive.
In filing their request for review with SCDHEC, the two organizations concentrated on two areas of concern – safety of black bears in the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve (LOBHP) and reducing the road from the currently proposed four lanes to two lanes.
The request refers to an earlier agreement to the construction of three passageways for animals to travel under the road as well as fencing to prevent the bears from entering the roadway in certain sections.
A section of the request reads in part, “Unfortunately for the bears and the motorists that will hit them once the 60 mph, 4-lane road is paved, these requirements were deleted through a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2013 in exchange for Horry County’s payment to (SC)DNR in the amount of $122,210.00.”
Considerations for the safety of the black bears are all well and good until you remember that hunters may acquire a special permit allowing them to shoot black bears in LOBHP and Horry County earlier agreed to limit speeds on International Drive to 35 mph in the areas expected to be primary sites for bear crossing.
One bear expert in the state said four lanes, reduced speeds and no fencing would give the bears a much better chance of crossing the road without getting hit than the fencing and two lane option.
Again, I say the request for review is nothing more than an effort to delay, delay, delay the International Drive project and to cost more tax dollars, through increased costs to the project.
The SCDHEC board may decline the request for review. If this happens, a contested case hearing before an Administrative Law Court can be filed within 30 days after the final SCDHEC decision is issued. This will almost certainly happen if the CCL, SCWF request is denied.
If the Administrative Law Court rules in favor of the project, it can begin as soon as Horry County awards a contract to the winning bidder on the project. The bid process is expected to take approximately three months. If the ALC rules against the project, the county can take it to the SC Appeals Court and to the SC Supreme Court, if necessary.
The best case scenario to start the project is approximately one year if SCDHEC board refuses to reopen the case for review and the ALC route is taken, to several more years depending on appeals, if needed.
Again, delay, delay, delay while the traffic needs of Carolina Forest go unaddressed.