From WMBF News partner MyHorryNews.com:
By Charles D. Perry email@example.com
Horry County officials told a contractor to begin completing the final stage of International Drive on Tuesday.
The county issued a notice to proceed, which gives Southern Asphalt 10 days to begin widening and paving the 5.6-mile road between Carolina Forest and S.C. 90, county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.
The decision comes as county leaders and two conservation groups await a decision from the S.C. Supreme Court about whether it will intervene in a dispute between the two parties, which have sparred over the design and location of the road.
The conservation groups lost legal battles with the county in state and federal courts. In January, the S.C. Court of Appeals agreed to allow the county to continue working on International Drive.
Last month, the Coastal Conservation League and the S.C. Wildlife Federation asked the state's highest court to stop the county from building the road to "prevent immediate and permanent damage from occurring as a result of the construction," according to a court filing.
The groups contend the project will harm area wildlife and damage wetlands, including 20 acres of heritage trust property. They want the court to stop the construction so their appeals of other court decisions in the case won't become moot.
"In this case, a stay would maintain the status quo by ensuring protection of public property and valuable coastal resources before that property and those resources are irreparably damaged and lost," the groups' filing states. "Failure to impose a stay will disrupt the status quo at the expense of the public, who owns the Heritage Preserve property over which this highway will be built."
Unless the S.C. Supreme Court intervenes, the appeals court decision will stand. The appellate court agreed to allow the county to continue working on the road as long as the road isn't opened to the public.
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.