From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com:
The S.C. Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered Horry County to halt construction on International Drive.
The decision followed the court's decision last week to stay two state certifications for the project, which involves paving and widening a 5.6-mile stretch of road between Carolina Forest and S.C. 90.
County officials insisted the stay did not prevent them from continuing to work on the road, but two conservation groups suing the county maintained it did.
The court cleared up any confusion on Tuesday, saying construction must stop until the conservationists' appeal could be heard in court.
"The order requires that Horry County halt all work on the road project, including the widening, paving, and realigning of the existing unimproved portion of International Drive," the court wrote.
County Councilman Johnny Vaught confirmed the county had received the order and stopped construction. However, he said the road is nearly ready to be paved.
"We are done basically with working on the road," he said. "I don't know what they're stopping us from doing."
Amy Armstrong, an attorney representing the Coastal Conservation League and the S.C. Wildlife Federation in actions against the county, said the court needed to intervene to prevent the groups' appeal from becoming meaningless.
"If they move forward with construction, our case is going to become moot," she said. "Because the court can't grant relief if the project's already completed."
International Drive has been in the works for more than a decade.
Horry voters approved the project in a 2006 sales tax referendum. Construction was supposed to begin in 2015, but environmental objections put the brakes on the work.
Conservationists first challenged the state certifications in court, and in July a state judge ruled in the county's favor. The conservationists appealed that decision.
County officials, however, received the federal permits for the project and opted to begin work anyway.
That prompted the conservationists to file a federal lawsuit in an effort to stop the county from working on the project.
Last month, a federal judge sided with the county, forcing the conservationists to take that case to the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals.