A tentative agreement to move forward with limited construction on International Drive while the project is litigated in federal court has been reached between environmentalists and the Horry County Council.
The county has agreed to limit disturbance in several specific areas along the 5.6 mile road that would link Carolina Forest with S.C. 90, according to a letter from lawyer Amy Armstrong, who represents the Coastal Conservation League and S.C. Wildlife Federation.
“They have agreed that five areas should not be disturbed further by the county in any fashion and documented those areas with photographs,” Armstrong said in a letter Tuesday to U.S. District Judge R. Bryan Harwell in Florence.
The county is correlating the photographs to match map locations for inclusion in the final agreement, which is expected to be submitted to the court soon.
As to which areas have been identified and whether it excludes further filling of wetlands or restricts cutting down trees, the letter did not elaborate. County officials have not yet responded to questions about the agreement.
Construction on the impassible dirt road to turn it into a five-lane highway was scheduled to begin in 2013, but delayed by environmental groups who wanted bear tunnels built underneath the road.
The groups also oppose construction of a five-lane road, arguing that its purpose is to develop an area across from the highway from the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve for residential and business use.
Environmentalists asked the federal judge in September to issue a restraining order prohibiting all construction work until the court rendered a decision. However, the county and environmentalists later agreed that work would be limited on wetlands not already affected by construction, and to restrict tree removal.
Weeks later, environmentalists charged the county was not abiding by the agreement, and the judge sent them back to the negotiating to come up with a new agreement.