(CN) – An environmental group claims in court that federal regulators unlawfully approved a new, $3.8 billion interstate that will needlessly destroy hundreds of acres of pristine freshwater wetlands near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
In a federal complaint filed in Charleston on Tuesday, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League claims the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal regulators relied on “an outdated and unreasonably narrow conception of the purpose and need for I-73, ignored all non-interstate alternatives to I-73, and failed to consider significant changes over the past decade that have undermined the rationale for the interstate project.”
By way of example, the league points that other states that once planned portions of the planned interstate, I-73, within their borders have abandoned plans to construct new interstate segments.
Despite this, the agencies continued to act on the assumption that I-73 in South Carolina would be part of what the plaintiff dismisses as “a fictitious national interstate linkage.”
“Both the Corps and FHWA also improperly relied on a decade-old environmental analysis for this project despite significant changes in circumstances, impacts, and other factors that have occurred since that analysis was completed in 2008,” the complaint says.
But tourism officials in Myrtle Beach claim the league is merely trying to hold up or block construction of a new Interstate that the city believes will be a boon to economic development in the area.
Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said the interstate I-will help attract new industries, more and better paying jobs, increase connectivity, reduce congestion and will be an additional hurricane evacuation route for the 43,000 residents of the region, which is known as the “Grand Strand.”
“For four years the community has been working on I-73 which is one of the most important and significant economic development projects in the state’s history,” Dean said.
The project would connect the existing 21 miles of I-73 in South Carolina to I-95, a distance of 43 miles and relieve local roadways that are crammed with tourists for much of the year.
“Just think all those cars from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia weren’t on Highway 501, but instead were on I-73. Local residents will have easier access to and from work,” Dean said.
The chamber president said the lawsuit is just the latest chapter in the league’s history of impeding progress in the state.
The league wants a federal judge to vacate the regulatory approvals for the interstate.