State to Pay for Preserve Acres to Be Lost in Road Construction

Thu October 25, 2007 - Southeast Edition
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The state Transportation Department will pay for 30 acres (12.1 ha) of a land preserve that will be damaged by construction of Interstate 73.

The $750,000 will be paid to the Natural Resources Department, which agreed to accept the payment at a meeting Sept. 28. The deal still has to be approved by the Budget and Control Board, but has also been approved by the board of the Little Pee Dee River Heritage Trust Preserve.

Little Pee Dee River Heritage Trust Preserve on the border between Horry and Marion counties will be crossed just south of the existing state Highway 917 bridge.

The preserve is protected under federal highway law and the approval for the crossing is needed to get federal approval of the route.

The Heritage Trust Advisory Board voted unanimously earlier this month to approve the exchange. “We would obviously use those funds for a replacement of the bottomland hardwoods habitat that would be lost,” Heritage Trust program manager Barry Beasley told the board.

The Natural Resources Department had rejected an earlier $450,000 offer and some legislators held up some of the agency’s bills at the end of the session because it held up the I-73 plan.

But agency Chairman Mike McShane said the agency agreeing to the exchange actually saved the state money by not requiring a longer route.

“DNR was the solution to helping save the state $100 million,” McShane said.

The Coastal Conservation League and Southern Environmental Law Center say the crossing should not be approved.

McShane said intrusion into the preserve was unavoidable if the interstate was to be built. He said the agency’s proposed river crossing site is the least damaging to the environment.

The interstate, which will eventually link the state with Michigan, will run 90 mi. (145 km) across South Carolina, giving the 14 million tourists who visit the Myrtle Beach area each year their first direct interstate link to the Grand Strand.

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