MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The South Carolina Environmental Law Project filed a request Friday for a hearing on behalf of the Coastal Conservation League and the Wildlife Federation, challenging the DHEC authorization to eliminate or fill over 24 acres of wetlands in connection with the paving and widening of International Drive.
Currently the SC Department of Natural Resources owns to the center line of the current dirt road as part of the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve. Lewis Ocean bay complex is home to numerous threatened endangered plants and animals, according to Senior Biologist Steve Gilbert.
This preserve is one of the crown jewels of SC natural landscape and recognized for its biological diversity, says Gilbert.
The project includes filling and eliminating over 24 acres of wetlands, including numerous Carolina Bays on the state preserve.
Paving International Drive would result in the entire preserve being isolated and surrounded by roads.
In 2010 a contract between Horry County and SC DNR, the state agreed to a two-lane road with three constructed passageways for wildlife. Then in 2013 the country urged DNR to enter a new contract, which eliminated the requirement for the wildlife passageway.
The county also increased the scope of the project to a five-land road. The League and Wildlife Federation later submitted comments to DHEC and the Corps of Engineers urging the agencies to require the county to, at a minimum stick with its 2010 plan.
The League Wildlife Federation and SCELP met with the county twice and exchanged three offers and counter-offers and had unsuccessful attempts to reach a compromise. The county was unwilling to install even one wildlife passageway or any system at all.
In addition, the county included ten curb cuts to the project which will lead to multiple areas for bears to enter and get trapped on the road.
The county refused the league's request to decrease the number of curb cuts. The League has focused on wise land-use planning for decades, including 10 new entry points onto International Drive which will only lead to congestion, according to a press release.
The League and Wildlife Federation are willing to continue with negotiations in hopes of a resolution that will minimize opportunities for wildlife to enter the roadway and keep people and wildlife safe.
The appeal was filed to defend public lands, waters, and wildlife. According to Armstrong, settlement negotiations can continue even though the case has been filed, according to the Coastal Conservation League.
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