From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com:
No one can say there's widespread apathy about a marine industrial park in Bucksport.
More than 100 people packed into the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority office in Conway Monday night for a two-hour public hearing on the proposed park, which would allowed for some dredging of the Waccamaw River to accommodate industry at the Bucksport Marina.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) presided over the hearing, which was held after the response to the authority's request to dredge the river and update the property's infrastructure.
The site in question is owned by the authority and divided by Bucksport Road. The eastern side of the property includes an RV park, marina and restaurant, as well as 1,600 feet of frontage space along the river.
Although the park project has been talked about for years, it's only recently begun to gain traction. After studying the site, the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority purchased the Bucksport Marina in 2010 and renovated the 150-year-old facility. The project received approval from county officials last year.
The park is being championed by economic developers as a job creation initiative, but it's been criticized by environmentalists, who fear such a facility could lead to pollutants leaking into the source of the area's drinking water.
Many of the familiar arguments were repeated Monday. Business leaders said the park would bring much needed jobs to the impoverished community while environmentalists urged DHEC to require an environmental assessment of the project before allowing it to proceed.
Residents were also divided on the issue. Some asked that officials slow down and study the project while others insisted they move forward.
DHEC officials said they will review the comments and send any questions to the authority. If the state is satisfied with the authority's information, a permit may be issued. DHEC could take up to a year to make a decision on the matter, although authority officials don't expect it to take that long.
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