By Paul Gable
The Coastal Conservation League has rejected the latest effort at compromise over International Drive offered by Horry County.
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, Horry County offered a compromise that did not include bear tunnels.
Those sources say the CCL is insisting on one bear tunnel be included in the project.
According to Horry County officials, including a bear tunnel at this late date would require a total re-engineering of the project costing more than $1 million additional and would delay the start of construction for up to as much as two years.
No official agency, such as SCDOT, SCDNR, SCDHEC and the US Army Corps of Engineers, sees a need for even one bear tunnel in the project because the bear population in the area has seriously dwindled since the 2009 fire that swept through part of the Lewis Ocean Bay Preserve.
Additionally, an effort to harvest some of the remaining bear population allows for hunting of bears with a special permit during a portion of the year.
No word has been received on whether the CCL has requested a contested hearing over the International Drive project in the Administrative Law Court, but that move is expected by Horry County officials.
It is now questionable whether the CCL was ever negotiating in good faith with Horry County or whether this was just another delaying tactic since a SCDHEC committee rejected the request by the CCL for a final review of the International Drive project.
Regardless, the next action on International Drive will probably be played out in court.
But, it should be pointed out that the CCL and its allies are not the majority side in this contest and it may be making a very big mistake by continuing to delay the International Drive project for no apparent public interest.
Who knows, maybe the $1.6 million demand to be paid to The Nature Conservancy for no benefit to the International Drive project may resurface. That would be a bad mistake, however, since most of the citizens believe it qualifies as extortion.