Coastal Conservation League seeks compromise on International Dr -, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Coastal Conservation League seeks compromise on International Drive

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - While International Drive is moving forward in the permitting process, the project still isn't ready to actually start.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has approved the permit for International Drive, denying the Coastal Conservation League's request for review. 

Even though it ultimately ended in denial, Coastal Conservation League's North Coast Office Director Nancy Cave said she's actually feeling encouraged because DHEC went into executive session to talk about the request to review. It brought up animal passageways, which the group has been pushing for to give bears in Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve a way to migrate without the risk of getting hit by cars on International Drive.

"It demonstrated that they saw there was merit to it," Cave said.

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There are still steps the Coastal Conservation League could take to oppose the construction plan.

Ride II Chairman Mike Wooten said the next step would be an appeal to the administrative law court within the next 30 days. If the court rules against the appeal then an appeal could be filed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals and, finally, an appeal to the South Carolina State Supreme Court would be the last resort. He said that entire process could take a couple of years. 

However, Cave said an appeal isn't going to be the first course of action. She said she wants to reach out to Horry County and try to have a conversation about the issue.

"We don't want to stop the road," Cave said. "We would like to have a conversation with Horry County and we would reach out to Horry County and invite them to sit down and talk with us to see if we could find a resolution so that we wouldn't have to go to the administrative law court."

Cave said she's looking for a compromise that would appease both the environmentalists concerned with protecting the bears in Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve as well as the people who want the road completed.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said he's open to talking, however, he said he thinks the tunnels are a waste of money at $1-1.5 million per tunnel. He said the county compromised already by paying the Department of Natural Resources $33,000. He also said the road was widened and the speed limit was reduced to limit any harm to both animals and travelers.

People have blamed Coastal Conversation League for delaying the process to pave International Drive.

"There comes a point in time when you have to weigh the safety of hundreds or thousands of people over a few bears," said Liz Russell, who lives in a neighborhood along Highway 90.

Russell said she's frustrated about the traffic on 501 and the safety of people living along Highway 90, which is difficult to access for emergency responders. She said she's excited to be part of a petition, "Horry County Citizens in Support of the Immediate Paving of International Drive," which now has more than 600 signatures, because she thinks it will help push the Coastal Conservation League to back down.

"This seems to kind of be the first time residents have gotten a voice and have spoken up about this and not just sat idle," she said.

Cave said the Coastal Conservation League hasn't purposefully delayed the project.

"Once the permit application is submitted, it goes out on public notice and that's when the public can comment. That's when we commented," Cave said. "We haven't delayed anything. We have just been working through the process."

Cave said the project would have already begun if Horry County hadn't taken the animal passageways out of the original plan.

Carl Johnson, who lives in Myrtle Beach, agrees with Cave.

"That's what our elected officials are elected for is to protect the people and the resources in the communities and they're not doing that," he said.
The Coastal Conservation League has 30 days to submit an appeal to the administrative law court.

Wooten said although DHEC approved the permit and the U.S. Army Corps of engineers was getting ready to issue its approval, the state certification for the project would be on hold until the appeals process is complete. He said the state certification is needed to get a federal certification.

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