Tag: Coastal Conservation League

International Drive Latest

Letters are still being exchanged between Horry County and the Coastal Conservation League as the court filing deadline looms.

After the second meeting between Horry County officials and the conservationists ended abruptly with the demand of an additional $1.6 million payment from Horry County to The Nature Conservancy, Horry County sent a letter to the CCL to see if there were still possible areas of agreement.

According to sources close to the negotiations, the CCL answered with a letter and the county responded to that letter yesterday.

According to those sources, the CCL request for a $1.6 million payment from Horry County and the bear tunnels have been removed from the CCL demands.

Those two events would seem to put the two sides close enough together so that an agreement could be reached avoiding a request by the CCL for a contested hearing in Administrative Law Court.

However, as we have seen with this issue, nothing can be taken for granted.

In the meantime, the group from the Hwy 90/Carolina Forest area that went down to demonstrate in front of the CCL offices in Georgetown Wednesday is to be congratulated.

Citizens’ entrance into the political discussion that is the International Drive issue is important for both sides to understand.

The chant of “What do we want? International Drive, When do we want it? NOW” sums up the citizens’ position on the issue.

Update: International Drive and the CCL

Propaganda and dissimulation have entered the International Drive debate in the form of an email sent by the Coastal Conservation League yesterday.

Evidently opposed to the First Amendment rights of Horry County citizens who plan to picket the CCL offices today in support of International Drive, the email said, “These people are smearing the conservation community, peddling misinformation, and resorting to other nefarious tactics in the name of paving and widening International Drive in Horry County.”

These citizens are neither smearing the conservation community nor peddling misinformation!

After last week’s attempt to obtain $1.6 million from Horry County for an agreement to drop opposition to International Drive, the CCL is playing the bear card again.

One other area of propaganda must again be addressed.

The email said, “SCDNR’s original conveyance of Heritage Trust property to Horry County in 2010 for the construction of this road included the condition that underground bear passageways be included. Three years later, Horry County asked SCDNR to eliminate the underground bear passageways in exchange for a handsome sum of money that wasn’t included in the first contract.”

What the email doesn’t say is that a fired roared through the area seriously depleting the bear population in the interim between the original conveyance and the agreement to eliminate the underground passageways.

Residents protest International Drive delays

The delays on beginning the International Drive project are becoming more and more of a concern to citizens of Carolina Forest and Horry County in general.

The breakdown in talks between Horry County officials and representatives of the Coastal Conservation League and SC Wildlife Federation last week resulted in more meetings among concerned citizens groups in the county.

Normally, the Coastal Conservation League and its allies depend on the support of the average public to be successful in meeting their goals.

The International Drive issue is working exactly the opposite. Regular citizens, all of whom understand the importance of the road for public safety and traffic inner-connectivity, are increasing their protests against the delaying tactics of the conservationists for no real reason.

And, if the environmentalists are not careful, the public outcry against the stalling of International Drive will manifest itself with other projects. This is definitely true if the propensity of the environmentalists to make demands for money, ostensibly to buy land not needed for mitigation on projects, continues.

Tomorrow, a group of citizens from the Carolina Forest and Hwy 90 areas will descend on the offices of the Coastal Conservation League to register a public protest. Read the announcement below:

No Extortion on International Drive

Horry County Council gave a resounding NO to the possibility of giving any money to The Nature Conservancy for extra mitigation on International Drive.

The new request came up during a meeting between Horry County officials and representatives from the Coastal Conservation League and the SC Wildlife Federation.

Essentially what was asked for was the county to pay The Nature Conservancy approximately $1.6 million so that agency could purchase land to be used ostensibly for wildlife preservation.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus ended the meeting after the new demand was made.

Lazarus reported on the International Drive project during the regular council meeting Tuesday night. He said he wasn’t going to give money from the taxpayers of Horry County to a private nonprofit organization so it could buy land.

It is probably not something that could legally be done either. International Drive is one of the projects paid for by the one cent local option sales tax (Ride II).

Ride II was approved by referendum of county voters in 2006. At that time, each project with the anticipated expenses associated with it was listed in the referendum. The county has already paid for the mitigation credits required by the US Army Corps of Engineers and SCDHEC for the project.

To expend extra dollars just to please conservation groups for land that is neither associated with the project nor required for mitigation certainly seems to be in conflict with state law on capital projects sales tax.

International Drive Talks Fail

Talks between Horry County officials and representatives from environmental groups over the International Drive project came to an abrupt end Monday.

The talks were aimed at attempting to find a middle ground between the two groups so that a contested hearing in Administrative Law Court on the issuance of permits for International Drive could be avoided.

The talks were initiated by Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus.

Monday was the second meeting between Horry County officials and representatives from the Coastal Conservation League and SC Wildlife Federation aimed at forming some compromise that would allow the International Drive project to move forward.

The first meeting between the two groups was held August 6, 2015, with county officials coming away hopeful that a compromise could be reached that would allow construction to begin on International Drive in the near future.

That ended Monday afternoon when new demands were introduced into the discussion by Amy Armstrong, lead attorney for the SC Environmental Law Project representing the conservationists.

According to Lazarus, two new issues tanked the discussions. The first was a request for electronic signals, instead of signs, warning motorists of the possible presence of wildlife near the road as they were travelling International Drive.

However, the second request was the killer. Lazarus said the conservation groups requested that the county pay to The Nature Conservancy an amount equal to that already spent purchasing wetland mitigation credits for the project.

Irony of Myrtle Beach City Council Seismic Testing Vote – Update

When the Myrtle Beach City Council votes on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean later today, the result will mean nothing.

The resolution opposing seismic testing will be a statement of the sense of council, if it passes. However, local governments are not part of the decision process.

Local media reports speculate Myrtle Beach City Council is split 4-3 with Mayor John Rhodes, and council members Wayne Gray, Susan Grissom Means and Mike Chestnut opposing seismic testing while council members Randal Wallace, Phil Render and Mike Lowder reportedly support it.

But, it really doesn’t make any difference what Myrtle Beach City Council does.

SCDHEC determines consistency of permit requests with coastal zone management practices. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issues the permits.

Seismic testing uses loud blasts of sound from airguns to gather data about what oil reserves might be under the ocean floor.

The hoped for result is that seismic testing will prove oil reserves of sufficient size to justify recovery are present under the ocean floor. Those supporting testing see this result as an economic boom for the state.

Opponents of seismic testing, and later drilling, point to the potential harm to sea mammals and the ever present possibility of another Deepwater Horizon oil blowout that devastated the Gulf Coast in April 2010.

More Talks for International Drive

Yesterday’s meeting on International Drive ended with further discussions scheduled for August 17, 2015.

According to several sources who attended the meeting between Horry County officials and representatives from the Coastal Conservation League and SC Wildlife Federation, yesterday’s talks were very cordial and very open.

The sources said both sides presented several options that could be considered for a compromise on the current International Drive standoff.

“We gave each other some options and both sides are going to talk about them,” said Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus. “Hopefully when we get together on the 17th we can come to some type of agreement. If it works out, I believe everyone will be happy.”

Specifics on the options each side presented are not available. Lazarus said both sides agreed to keep those confidential until the next meeting.

Lazarus said he emphasized the importance of International Drive to the citizens of Carolina Forest and the strong support of citizens in the Carolina Forest area to getting the project completed.

The International Drive project was initially scheduled to be completed in 2013 as one of the last roads on the Ride II list of projects.

International Drive Talks

Representatives from Horry County, the Coastal Conservation League and SC Wildlife Federation will meet this afternoon to discuss International Drive.

The talks will be an exploration to determine if any compromise is possible to get the International Drive construction started.

As of right now, the environmentalist groups have until August 29, 2015 to determine if they will appeal a recent decision by the SCDHEC board not to conduct a final review on the project.

If it comes, the appeal will be made to the Administrative Law Court.

Representatives of the CCL have indicated in media reports that they may be open to a compromise solution that would avoid more legal action and move the project along.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus reached out to the groups after the SCDHEC decision to determine if any compromise is possible.

Lazarus told me he thought it was proper to take the initiative on attempting to find a compromise.

“IF it goes to court, I will feel better being able to say we tried to find a compromise,” Lazarus said.

I salute Lazarus on the attempt. There is really nothing that should be stopping the International Drive project from moving forward other than senseless roadblocks put up by the environmentalist groups.

International Drive Clears One Hurdle

The International Drive project jumped one hurdle yesterday when a SCDHEC committee rejected another review requested by two environmental groups.

The committee voted 3-0 to reject a request for review of the project by the Coastal Conservation League and SC Wildlife Federation who put in a last minute appeal July 10, 2015 to stop SCDHEC and the US Army of Corps of Engineers from issuing permits that would have allowed construction to go forward.

It is expected an appeal will be filed with the Administrative Law Court within the 30 day required period.

The two environmental groups objected to the elimination of three bear tunnels that had been included in the project at one point and to a four lane instead of a two lane roadway.

At the time, we called this ecoterrorism in the form of delaying the project for as long as possible, a move that has been going on since 2007 in one form or another.

According to sources familiar with the committee deliberations, one SCDHEC board member asked if Horry County and the environmental groups would agree to a compromise of one bear tunnel instead of the three the environmentalists were requesting in an effort to avoid more legal proceedings. Evidently nothing was mentioned regarding two v. four lanes.

An attorney for the environmentalists reportedly called the compromise plan interesting and worth exploring.

Ecoterrorism Strikes International Drive

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.