International Drive is a 5.6 mile dirt road that borders the SC Department of Natural Resource’s nine thousand acre Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve, west of Myrtle Beach near Conway in Horry County. Lewis Ocean Bay provides habitat for bears, the federally-endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker, and the rare Venus Flytrap.
In 2013 Horry County applied for a permit to re-align and pave International Drive, filling 24.88 acres of wetlands adjacent to tributaries of the Waccamaw River. For unknown reasons, the Department of Natural Resources relinquished their ownership of part of the road to Horry County, allowing them to move forward with their road building plans with the condition that bear crossings were to be in the road design.
Since that time, the project has changed from a two-lane paved road with bear crossings to a five-lane road with no bear crossings — and ten new curb cuts!
The Conservation League believes that Horry County has not adequately examined design alternatives, and that they should honor their commitment to include wildlife passages and appropriate mitigation in the project design.
The Conservation League, represented by the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), appealed DHEC’s permit decision unsuccessfully. Days after Judge Anderson’s ruling in administrative law court, the Army Corps of Engineers issued their Section 404 permit. Horry County promptly began clearing and filling wetlands along International Drive before SCELP or the Conservation League had been notified of the permit decision.
On September 23, our request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Horry County was granted, preventing them from performing any filling, physical work or alteration in any wetlands in the project right of way. Within weeks of the TRO, the Conservation League obtained photographs of the project site that revealed Horry County continuing work.
We have filed a federal lawsuit based on the lack of information and analysis provided in the project’s Environmental Assessment. SCELP and the Conservation League appeared before Judge Bryan Harwell on October 28 to argue Contempt against Horry County for violating the TRO, and to request a preliminary injunction until the federal case is heard. The injunction will ensure that no more irreparable damage to the property will occur until that time.
We await Judge Harwell’s decision on the case.