DHEC denies final review conference request for International Dr - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

DHEC denies final review conference request for International Drive paving project

A diagram from the request for review, showing the locations of the nixed bear crossings. A diagram from the request for review, showing the locations of the nixed bear crossings.

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Request for Final Review Committee of the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control chose Monday July 27, not to hold a final review conference on the 401 Water Quality Certification and Coastal Zone Consistency Certification, according to DHEC’s Cassandra Harris.

An RFR was filed by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation in response to the Notice of Department Decision (NODD) issued on June 25, 2015 for a Section 401 Water Quality Certification and CZC.

The NODD permits the realignment, widening and paving of a 5.6-mile portion of the existing International Drive between SC 90 and SC 31 east of Conway. 

Harris says DHEC’s review of the proposed project, that would impact 24.19 acres of freshwater and wetlands and 26 streams associated with Waccamaw River tributaries, determined it was consistent with state and federal laws concerning the 401 Water Water Quality Certification and CZC.

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project will receive a letter from the RFR Board now with guidelines for contesting the case.

Mere hours before the end of the period to submit a request for review of the project to widen and pave International Drive in Carolina Forest, the South Carolina Conservation League submitted a 55-page request, documenting the potential environmental impact the project would have to the surrounding habitat.

The project would widen, expand and pave a 5.6-mile section of unimproved International Drive between S.C. 31 and S.C. 90, connecting the growing Carolina Forest community to Highway 90, and reducing congestion on Highway 501. The project was originally scheduled for 2013, as one of the projects funded by the Ride II Penny Sales Tax, but has since been delayed behind other projects that were made higher priority.

Late last month, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental issued a decision to certify the International Drive project and allow the road to extend to Highway 90, per environmental conditions. 

The last day to submit a request for final review of the project was July 10, and one was submitted on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League before the 5 p.m. deadline.

The request states that the road, which is currently a low-impact dirt road, bisects a “contiguous, nearly pristine habitat adjacent to Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage project,” and runs through an important corridor of the black bear habitat in Horry County.  The original agreement with the county and the Department of Natural Resources, states that “improving the Road will create a dangerous threat of harm to animals traversing the area, as well as a threat of harm to the traveling public due to collisions with animals…[Horry County is] especially concerned over the likelihood of collisions between motorists and black bears.”

The original proposal therefore included an agreement to construct three passageways for animals to pass under, as well as fencing to prevent bears from entering the roadway. However, these requirements were deleted at the county’s request through a 2013 agreement, in exchange for a $122,210 payment to DNR by the county, according to the League’s request document.

Despite objections by the League, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state and federal resource agencies, the final permits were issued for the International Drive project.

The closing date to submit a request for review was originally reported as being July 9, but according to Jim Beasly with DHEC, the correct closing date was in fact July 10.

Click here to read the League’s complete 55-page request for review in PDF format. (Warning: large file).

petition of “Horry County Citizens in Support of Immediate Paving of International Drive” has collected 417 signatures since it was created on June 22.

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