By Paul Gable
At the 11th hour yesterday, two environmental groups stepped in to further delay the International Drive paving project by approximately two years.
That’s right! A project that should have been completed by 2013 now won’t get started until 2017 at the earliest.
SCDHEC notified Horry County in a letter dated June 25, 2015 that its staff had determined the International Drive project was “consistent with the certification requirements of Section 401 of the Federal Clean Water Act and staff of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management had determined the project was consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Program.
With those determinations, SCDHEC proposed to certify the International Drive project with certain conditions. This decision allowed the US Army Corps of Engineers to issue regulatory approval for the project. With these certifications in hand, Horry County would have been able to begin the International Drive project.
As required by law, there was a 15 day period, after the notification letter was sent, during which organizations could file a Request for Final Review. That period ended at 5 p.m. July 10, 2015.
Just before the deadline, the Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation filed RFR’s with the help of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Sources familiar with the RFR process told GSD these actions by CCL and SCWF will delay the final permitting of the International Drive project by approximately two years.
Meanwhile, cars from the Carolina Forest area will be forced to add increasing traffic congestion to US 501 further endangering the lives of motorists.
It’s not the life of motorists that concern the CCL and SCWF. Rather, they are allegedly concerned about red cockaded woodpeckers, venus fly traps and black bears.
I have followed this process with International Drive since the mid 2000’s. I shook my head in disgust when Buford Mabry, Chief Counsel of the SC Department of Natural Resources, first addressed the issue of red cockaded woodpeckers to Horry County Council.
Horry County worked its way through objections because of the woodpeckers as well as wetlands mitigation and black bear crossings.
It took years, but all the issues were supposedly addressed and the county fully expected to get the permits and regulatory approval issued yesterday evening.
I am told, Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus had an airplane on standby to fly to Charleston to pick up the permits yesterday afternoon so work could begin on International Drive in the very near future.
Now, red cockaded woodpeckers, venus fly traps, black bears and wetlands mitigation have again raised their ugly heads in the form of the CCL and SCWF.
Some may call this protecting wildlife and the environment.
But, I see it as a mean-spirited attempt to settle personal scores between individuals at CCL, the Southern Environmental Law Center, SCDOT commission members and Horry County. (More about this in future articles)
All at the expense of the citizens of Horry County in general and those in Carolina Forest in particular.
Read the SCDHEC June 25, 2015 letter here: doc20150710123549