By Paul Gable
Since International Drive was first proposed, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources has thrown one roadblock after another in the way of the project.
Issues with red cockaded woodpeckers, right of way disputes, bear crossings and chain link fences have all been overcome only to find now the DNR has teamed with the Army Corps of Engineers to discover wetlands that have to be mitigated before permanent road construction can begin.
Two absolutes I quickly learned after moving to Horry County 30 years ago were: there is no such thing as a conflict of interest for politicians and there are no wetlands in Horry County. These were written in stone as the county was transformed by development.
All of a sudden, when county government wants to do something to help citizens living in Carolina Forest, the DNR discovers wetlands to further hold up a much too delayed project.
The county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Committee last week heard a complicated solution to this most recent problem. It involves buying a piece of a swamp from the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and a drainage ditch from a private developer (a total of 139 acres).
After making some improvements to these ‘impacted wetlands’ the county can offer them up as a conservation easement to make up for the approximately 25 acres of wetlands the DNR claims will be impacted by International Drive.
If this sounds like bureaucratic BS that’s because, it is. It follows a nearly decade old pattern that, for some unknown reason, the DNR has used to attempt to defeat and/or delay the building of International Drive all the while adding additional cost to the project, this latest approximately $1 million.
The International Drive project may wind up being the most costly road project per mile of any in the county, including SC 22 and 31. DNR may be thanked for that.
Completion of the road to Hwy 90 will provide critical back door access to Carolina Forest area that will reduce traffic on U.S. 501 and provide additional egress options during emergencies like storms or fires.
For some reason, the DNR does not want this to happen and our legislative delegation has provided no help in moving the International Drive project forward.