Environmental lawyers ask state health officials to reconsider allowing Ingram Dunes infrastructure
December 21st, 2018
By Christian Boschult, MyHorryNews
The S.C. Environmental Law Project on Friday asked state health officials to reconsider their decision to allow developers to install stormwater infrastructure in North Myrtle Beach’s historic Ingram Dunes.
The 9.4 acres of dunes, formed between 12,000 to 80,000 years ago when the coastline was much farther inland, rise 50 feet above sea level. They’re the last bit of green space in the city east of U.S. 17 and have been used by the public for decades.
“It’s been always a place of great refuge for me," said Massachusetts transplant Damien Triouleyre, who heads up the nonprofit advocacy group Preserve Ingram Dunes. "It reminds me of where I used to live."
The dunes are home to foxes, great horned owls, migratory birds and live oak trees that are hundreds of years old, according to the environmental law group.
“You’re in the city and yet it’s extremely peaceful,” Triouleyre said. “Very quickly when you go in there, the traffic fades away and you begin to hear sounds of birds. Because of that, there’s a certain spirit there. You get that power-of-nature feeling.”
But on Dec. 6, DHEC granted one of the permits that Hillside Development needed in order to start installing stormwater infrastructure. It’s not the last permit needed before bulldozing, but it’s another step in that direction, Triouleyre said.
“It’s not good,” he said. “The dunes are extremely threatened right now.”
The law group filed its request with DHEC with the hope of changing the state agency's position.
“This is the challenge to ask the board to reconsider and hopefully withdraw the staff decision,” said Filippo Ravalico with the law project.
The law group's 30-page request on behalf of Preserve Ingram Dunes argues that DHEC failed to comply with the policies set out by the Coastal Zone Management Act as well as the Coastal Management Plan, a set of regulations that DHEC uses to comply with the CZMA.
“Undoubtedly, this project will destroy the character and existence of an ecologically, geologically, culturally and historically significant coastal resource, as well as eliminate the public’s use thereof,” the law project said in its request.
Asking DHEC’s board to review and rescind the decision is the first step, Ravalico said. If that doesn’t work, “the next step is to challenge this in court.”
Preserve Ingram Dunes isn’t just using the court system in its fight to save the historic green space. It’s also trying to help the city buy the land and turn it into a park.
“We’ve raised about $50,000 and another $50,000 with some hard pledges,” Triouleyre said. “The city has committed to give $500,000. As far as we know the asking price is about $3.1 million.”
The city could purchase the land or take it with eminent domain, which would still require the city to pay for it, Triouleyre said.
“Even the city government, meaning the city council, they would like to save it,” Triouleyre said. “It’s just a question of whether they’re willing to put enough money toward it. They do have other projects in the pipeline. Our argument is those are important things, but this is a once in a lifetime chance. If it was bulldozed, it’ll be gone forever.”
City officials could not be reached for comment.