A state judge ruled Monday against environmentalists who are trying to block construction on International Drive, because the work was authorized by a federal permit, not a state agency.
The Coastal Conservation League and S.C. Wildlife Federation wanted the Administrative Law Court to prevent Horry County from moving forward with the project until they could pursue a different challenge to construction in federal court.
The federal court case was set to begin Wednesday, but Horry County requested a delay until Oct. 28 to make preparations and to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
Following on the heels of the county’s request for a delay, the environmental groups filed a contempt of court order against the county Thursday, claiming they had proof the county was illegally filling wetlands.
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Construction work has been operating under a partial restraining order by the federal court since September. The county agreed to limit certain activities, including tree removal and filling any new wetlands under the federal hearing.
It was not clear whether the work in question affected untouched wetlands, or those where filling had already begun, which is permitted in the court order.
“The photographs clearly show that the Defendant Horry County is actively placing fill material in wetlands and waters of the United States that are the subject of the Order restraining fill in wetlands,” said the contempt complaint filed by environmentalists.
As proof, the groups have photographs taken by a Pawleys Island photojournalist who flew over the area Sept. 29.
The environmentalists are asking the federal court to order the county to undo the work and levy a fine.
Construction of the road that would connect Carolina Forest and Highway 90 has been delayed for more than a year by environmental groups, who argue the road would have a detrimental impact on bears and damage nearby wetlands.