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Thread: Anti-wetlands bill

  1. #1
    SirKristoff is a poopiehead Ozzy's Avatar
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    Posted on Wed, Apr. 21, 2004

    A Trojan horse wetlands bill moves forward


    Guest columnist

    There is a bill moving fast in the S.C. House that is purported to protect isolated wetlands in this state. In actuality, it would eliminate any type of true protections for more than 75 percent of the state’s remaining isolated wetlands, including our nationally significant Carolina Bays. Citizens must tell their representatives to reject this Trojan Horse of a bill, parading as wetlands protection.

    Wetlands are widely recognized as some of nature’s most valuable resources because they filter pollutants, prevent flooding, purify water and provide habitat to nearly half of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. Until 2001, isolated wetlands had protection under federal rules. That year, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down these safeguards, leaving more than 350,000 acres of South Carolina’s isolated wetlands, including Carolina Bays, unprotected. This ruling did not declare isolated wetlands unworthy of protection, but instead placed this authority with the state.

    Last year, a number of conservation groups petitioned the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to follow through with its obligation to develop regulations that would restore lost protections. This year-long stakeholder process had input from conservationists and development interests; the result was a compromise from both sides.

    Now fast-forward to this legislative session, and suddenly there is another option being offered, under the guise of isolated wetlands protection. On Wednesday, a bill crafted by special interests who want to weaken wetland protections will be before the House for a vote. Sponsors and proponents of the bill claim that only activities in wetlands less than one acre are exempt from a permit and this is their “compromise.” Instead, the bill says: “Applicants are allowed to perform regulated activities in isolated wetlands of up to five contiguous acres. No permit or other department (DHEC) approval is required.”

    So, a developer could fill isolated wetlands and bays 4.9 acres in size and not have to notify neighbors. No permit would be required. Although you may have to mitigate, it still leaves any Carolina Bay or other isolated wetland less than five acres — the size of five football fields — with virtually no protection. I believe when South Carolinians told their representatives they wanted wetlands protected, they did not mean to leave these important habitats out.

    Scientists from around the world are amazed at these Carolina Bays, home to carnivorous plant species found nowhere else in the world. Recently the curator of Kew Gardens in England spent a day visiting them. In addition to their beauty and value as wildlife habitat, they save South Carolinians millions of dollars every year by filtering pollution and absorbing flood waters.

    DHEC estimates that South Carolina’s isolated wetlands store about 45.8 billion gallons of water, which is enough to cover the Columbia metro area under 40 feet of water. In Sunday editions of The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, an amazing story ran about the neighbors being flooded because of wetlands destroyed when the Carolina Bays Parkway was built.

    Legislators who want to restore protections have another option today. They can adopt the regulations developed over a year-long public process open to all stakeholders. Intended to do nothing more than restore protections formerly in place, these permitting guidelines are a true compromise. Conservationists are willing to live with this compromise as a first step toward getting back lost protections. Opponents, rather than explain their objections (as they have repeatedly been asked to do) fall back on one excuse — they question the state’s authority to enact the rules. Yet every single court to look at this issue has found the state clearly has the authority to protect these important habitats.

    Preserving our quality of life, and the reasonable protection of our natural resources, is now recognized as key to continued economic development in South Carolina. It is in our self-interest, and in the interest of our children and grandchildren, to responsibly manage our most valuable assets, such as Carolina Bays. Legislators should reject the fatally flawed wetland bill and pass the compromise regulations.

    Ms. Renken is legislative director for the Coastal Conservation League.

  2. #2
    SirKristoff is a poopiehead Ozzy's Avatar
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    Here's the other article that the above article was refering to.

    Posted on Sun, Apr. 18, 2004

    PELICAN BAY: An environmental quagmire?

    By David Klepper

    The Sun News

    Residents of Pelican Bay in northern Horry County say broken promises by developers and deals between the contractors who built Carolina Bays Parkway, also known as S.C. 31, have led to flooding and road access problems in their gated subdivision nestled between the parkway and the Intracoastal Waterway.

    Meanwhile, conservation groups charge that the contractors who built the parkway and the S.C. Department of Transportation illegally destroyed 90 acres of wetland, an act environmentalists say could have led to the flooding problems at Pelican Bay.

    Now residents of the neighborhood and environmentalists say the situation shows how the rush to develop Horry County's wild spaces can hamper the quality of life for humans and wildlife.

    "It's not right," said Cathy Honeycutt, who lives in Pelican Bay.

    Honeycutt has watched as one thing after another made her question her decision to move to the 85-acre subdivision.

    She remains patient, confident that time will resolve the flooding and access problems. But it hasn't been easy.

    "We are caught in the middle of all this, and we're forced to put up with it."

    Broken promises

    Pelican Bay was initially developed by Bill and Gary Allen, a Charlotte, N.C.-based father-and-son company that specializes in waterfront properties.

    Pelican Bay was carved out of the wilderness and sold to professionals from places such as Charlotte and Fayetteville and New York. The developers marketed it as a residential project surrounded by nature and yet - thanks to the parkway, then in the planning stages - just minutes from downtown Myrtle Beach. Most of the lots sold for around $100,000.

    In 1997, the Allens sent letters to recent buyers, saying the parkway and the Conway Bypass "will put Pelican Bay residents within minutes of anywhere on the Grand Strand."

    In the letter, the Allens promised a direct link to the Carolina Bays frontage road, which was never built. They also said they would pave one of the two dirt access roads connecting to S.C. 90 by 2000.

    DOT officials say there was never a plan for a connection. The access road was never paved.

    So even though it is visible from the parkway, and despite promises of a direct connection and paved access roads, Pelican Bay might as well be miles distant.

    Gary Allen said he doesn't remember all the details of the project. He said the parkway plans changed often, and he never promised buyers anything. Bill Allen could not be reached for comment. Gary Allen said his father is old and ill.

    The Allens' involvement in the project ended when they sold the remaining lots to Angela Fellenz.

    Left with only two dirt roads, Honeycutt traded in her Mercedes for an SUV. Every day, she drives 3.5 miles of tough, rutted road to gain access to S.C. 90.

    The road accesses are so bad that several Pelican Bay property owners have delayed plans to build homes there.

    "All the lots are sold," said resident Bernie Bugg. "But nobody will build on them because they won't put up with the roads."

    Then came the floods

    Soon after work began on Carolina Bays Parkway, Pelican Bay began to flood. The water pooled in yards and turned drainage ditches into canals. The flooding made the dirt access roads almost impassable. Residents tracked the source to a large stormwater ditch coming from the direction of the parkway.

    Fellenz said they determined the flooding began after parkway workers destroyed wetland, low-lying areas that regularly flood every year. They serve as habitats for animals - many endangered - such as black bears and the carnivorous Venus' flytrap. They also absorb seasonal floods. If wetland is damaged, the water must go somewhere else.

    The residents concluded the water came from the borrow pits that contractor A.O. Hardee & Son dug alongside the parkway to mine sand and soil used in the parkway construction. Those pits filled with water and, residents say, flooded Pelican Bay.

    "He was diverting water onto our property," said property owner James Wharton, who postponed plans to build a home there after the flooding and road access problems.

    Benjy Hardee, president of A.O. Hardee, did not return phone calls but has said in the past that the area has always flooded and the borrow pits were not responsible.

    Morgan Martin, former state legislator and former DOT chairman, is Hardee's brother-in-law and, as an attorney, has represented Hardee in the past.

    Hardee's relationship with Martin and other officials concerns some residents of Pelican Bay.

    "Benjy Hardee has a lot of clout," Wharton said. "It's all political."

    Martin said there was no connection between his former DOT position and Hardee's work as a DOT contractor.

    "Let me say, categorically, that I didn't have anything to do with the route of the highway or where the borrow pits were dug," Martin said. "... I've heard about the place, and I've heard about some of the concerns about it. But they're dead wrong [in blaming me]. I don't know anything about the flooding of the property."

    Residents have hired Mount Pleasant attorney Cotton Harness, one of the state's leading environmental attorneys, to represent them. Harness declined to comment.

    The S.C. Coastal Conservation League and the Waccamaw Audobon Society blame parkway construction for the floods and for illegal destruction of 90 acres of wetland. They sent a letter to the DOT and its parkway contractors in August accusing contractors of filling wetland without a state permit. The conservation groups threatened legal action.

    "If ever there were important wetlands, it is here," said Jane Lareau of the Conservation League. "We won't want people to think that, in South Carolina, you can disobey the law and apologize for it later."

    State transportation authorities did not comment for this story but said they had permits to disturb 230 acres of wetland for the highway.

    Company with connections

    By leveling accusations at Hardee, Pelican Bay residents are taking on one of Horry County's most successful and politically connected businessmen.

    Hardee also serves as vice chairman of the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority, which controls where and when utility lines are installed.

    He sits on the Horry County Water and Soil Conservation District.

    Hardee is involved in several development partnerships, including Long Bay Associates, Palmetto Land Partners and the Waccamaw Landfill Partnership, which tried to build Horry County's first private landfill in the late 90s.

    A.O. Hardee & Son helped build Coastal Federal Field, Broadway at the Beach, Carolina Bays Parkway and Grande Dunes.

    The company has extensive ties with the S.C. Department of Transportation and with Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc.

    Last year, Hardee's company was fined $46,000 by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for violating water and air pollution laws at the company's mines.

    Dirt road section

    Not long after Pelican Bay residents complained to Hardee about the flooding, Palmetto Land Partners, one of Hardee's partnerships, made a deal with county officials to take Pelican Bay's shortest access road.

    Because a link to the parkway was never built, Pelican Bay residents had to use one of two dirt access roads - roads the developer promised to pave. One is 3.5 miles, the other 1.7.

    In January of 2003, Palmetto Land Partners asked Horry County Council to convey to him the shorter road in exchange for land nearby.

    Hardee would not comment on the swap, but according to County Council paperwork, his company told officials the road was needed to access sand and dirt mines.

    Pelican Bay residents say they were not notified about Hardee's request. They learned they had lost one of their two roads when Hardee's company erected a locked gate to block the road.

    "Why did Horry County pull a land-swap out there that basically blocked us off?" Wharton asks. "Now, he has the exclusive rights there."

    Residents wrote letters to the DOT, asking whether the road transfer was legal.

    "Their response was that they couldn't confirm that we ever had two accesses," Bugg said. "Well, I know we did."

    The county urges developers to plan multiple access roads for most residential developments. That ensures emergency vehicles can get in or out. Residents don't like the thought that their only access is a 3.5 mile dirt road, narrow in many places.

    "One hurricane, one tree falls, one fire," Honeycutt said. "And we're trapped."

    Future effects

    The problems convinced some Pelican Bay property owners to put off plans to build homes.

    But most of the 100 or so property owners say they are confident that when the area develops more, the paved roads will come. As for the flooding, they assume the worst is over now that the parkway construction is complete.

    "It will still be a glorious place to live," Honeycutt said. "These problems will be solved someday."

    One solution may be annexation into North Myrtle Beach. Plans for the Main Street Connector, which will link the parkway with North Myrtle Beach's downtown, also give residents hope that better roads will come.

    Now, conservationists and residents say they're afraid the same mistakes may be made in other parts of developing Horry County. They worry that plans for future roads, including the proposed Interstate 73 and the second phase of S.C. 31, now under construction, could lead to further wetland destruction.

    "[S.C. 31] was billed as 'nature's highway,'" said Jane Lareau of the Conservation League. "It didn't happen that way. Are they going to repeat these mistakes?"

    The league and other conservation groups hope to hold the DOT and its contractors to task for the wetland destruction.

    Yet a bill working its way through the General Assembly could make it easier for highway builders to take wetland.

    The bill, backed by local state Reps. Billie Witherspoon, Alan Clemmons, Tracy Edge, Thad Viers, Liston Barfield and John "Bubber" Snow, would exempt the DOT and its contractors from seeking a permit to destroy isolated wetland.

    The U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 blocked federal protection of isolated wetland, so-called because its water doesn't flow into other bodies of surface water. The ruling left protection up to state government.

    Exempting highway projects from the permit process will erode the state's already weak enforcement of environmental regulations, said Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. The bill, "is like a knife wound to an already drained corpse," he said.

    Though the legislation is uncertain, developers say the pace of Horry County's growth is not. Developers are already looking at land opened by the parkway. Gary Allen, the original developer of Pelican Bay, said he is considering another project in the vicinity.

    "If we don't, somebody else will," Allen said. '"Cause it's hot property."

    Contact DAVID KLEPPER at 626-0303 or

  3. #3
    SirKristoff is a poopiehead Ozzy's Avatar
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    I'm looking for contact numbers and when I find them I'll post them here.

  4. #4
    Whats it to ya? Finch's Avatar
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    Well the federals are going to cut the endangerd species thing's funding by 7 milion and there are bills in the works thet will prevent the EPA from prosecuting violators of the clean air and water acts. Oh did i mention Industry hierd lawers are going to try and convince the supreme court that the clean air and water acts are unconstitutional?
    that makes no logic

  5. #5

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    Ozzy, i'm going to start calling you Gandolf. *You're always the bringer of bad tidings.

    Is there anything we who don't live in the Carolinas can do about this one?

    PS What became of that presentation- did the other person cover it?
    There's no 'a' in perlite.

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