It will cost nearly $1 million and pose a pollution risk to the the environment if construction of International Drive is blocked until the S.C. Court of Appeals hears a legal challenge to the project, Horry County officials said in court documents.
All of the wetlands already have been filled, an action the Coastal Conservation League and S.C. Wildlife Federation sought to prevent by filing multiple lawsuits against the county.
And, when the Dec. 15 court order was issued to stop work on the project, the only work remaining was to lay concrete and pave the road, the county said.
That means the 5.6-mile dirt road will remain a bare earth bed with sentiment polluting nearby streams and remaining wetlands unless the county spends upwards of $1 million in additional measures to stabilize the area.
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“Sediment transport is the most serious threat of water pollution in Horry County,” Steve Gosnell, Horry County assistant administrator, stated in an affidavit to the court. “In my opinion, this is a type of water pollution which should be prevented.”
Stan Barnett, the lawyer representing the county, asked the court in a motion filed Wednesday to reverse its order prohibiting completion of the road project.
If the county is allowed to complete the road project, they would keep the road closed to the public and use it only for emergency vehicles until the court case is resolved, Barnett said.
Additionally, the county would not connect the road to private property along the west side with curb cuts, which environmentalists also oppose.
Environmentalists failed to convince a state and federal court to halt the road project and are appealing the state decision in the appeals court.
They argue that wetlands would be severely impacted and wildlife — primarily black bears — would be at risk from road traffic.
With the wetlands already filled and the road connecting Carolina Forest and S.C. Highway 90 limited to emergency vehicles, the county argues there would be no further impact to the area while the case progresses.
Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, contends that allowing road construction to proceed while the court case is ongoing defeats their purpose, which is either return the area to its natural state, or ensure that wildlife is not threatened by building bear tunnels underneath the road.
The environmentalists also oppose nearly a dozen curb cuts, which they say would lead to commercial and residential development.