DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — Elected officials are making a push to shrink some protected lands in Dorchester County in the name of attracting business, but conservationists say it’s a dangerous idea.
Conservationists say it’s a program that provides added protection for coastal waterways. The Coastal Management Program was started in 1979, but some Dorchester County representatives say they only want part of the county to take part.
They say the change would make the county more attractive to new business.
According to conservationists, the change in policy could expose 90 percent of Dorchester County to pollutants.
“It allows for direct permitting in the very critical areas, so that we can give extra scrutiny to the balance of the ecosystem as well as businesses and development, but also in the rest of the coastal zone, this allows for the state review and certify a lot of the federal permits that are going in so that we can make sure we’re protecting all of the coastal resources here, in the state,” said Myles Maland, project manager with the Coastal Conservation League.
His group is advocating for all of Dorchester County to stay in the program, so coastal zones and waterways have an added protection.
“If other counties take a look at this and say, ‘I don’t want to adhere to the same regulations as well,’ this could set a very dangerous precedent and this could cause and spark a who review of the entire coastal management program,” said Maland.
Dorchester County councilman Jay Byars said it was a unanimous vote to ask state representatives for help in removing parts of the county from the program.
“If we can keep people in Dorchester County, then we don’t necessarily have to spend money on widening I-26, or other transportation issues but everybody leaves to go work somewhere else, myself included,” said Byars.
He said Dorchester County has lots of residential growth, but needs more job creation. He said two bills, one in the Senate, the other in the House of Representatives propose removal from the program.
“We just need to be able to go in and go into areas that have a puddle in the middle of a pine stand and not treat that as a cost prohibitive wet land, when it’s not really the same as low land bottom hard woods that really are drainage basins for this wonderful area,” said Byars.
The Coastal Conservation League says the bill could also jeopardize federal funding if boundaries are altered. The bill in the House of Representatives was set to b debated Wednesday.
Maland said because the bill is special legislation it did not have to go in front of any committee.