Friday, December 29, 2023 Blog · North Coast Newsletter

North Coast Newsletter: 2023 in Review

by Emmi Palenbaum

As 2023 comes to a close, we want to take time to reflect with you on all we’ve accomplished together this year. So often, we face new issues that take all of our focus, and it’s easy to forget to recognize and appreciate our success. So, here’s a brief look at some of our wins, by the numbers, this year. Thank you for all you do to support this important work. 

  • 23,500+ signatures urging Conway Medical Center to choose another location for their proposed hospital—one not next door to Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve 
    • In January, we await the third reading at Horry County Council of a plan to  allow Conway Medical Center to build a new hospital across the road from Lewis Ocean Bay and adjacent to Horry County’s mitigation bank. When Council considers this plan, we need to be there to remind them why this is a mistake. Hospitals and smoke do not mix. A hospital adjacent to the preserve means fewer prescribed burns and without those prescribed fires, we lose species like Venus flytraps, Red-cockaded woodpeckers, and longleaf pines. Without prescribed fires, the county’s mitigation bank fails to release full credits required to improve Horry’s roads and bridges to keep up with the exponential growth. There are many places to build a hospital, but there is only one Lewis Ocean Bay. 
  • $500-per-inch fee for cutting down a protected tree in Georgetown County without a permit, with up to a 3-year building permit hold 
    • In response to concerned residents, Georgetown County significantly strengthened their tree ordinance with amendments to protect grand live oaks, longleaf pine on the Waccamaw Neck, and other protected trees across the county. 
  • 2 new rain gardens in Bucksport 
    • In conjunction with American Rivers and community members, we installed new rain gardens at a community church and a private residence to help alleviate localized flooding issues on the properties and support pollinators. 
  • 1 new oyster shell recycling drop-off site at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority Highway 90 landfill  
    • Along with South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resource’s SCORE program team, we advocated for countywide oyster shell recycling bins and the Solid Waste Authority agreed to host a pilot shell recycling bin at the landfill. We are working hard to educate the public and governmental entities on why this is crucial to ensure our estuary is healthy, ecosystem services are maintained, and we sustain a bountiful oyster population so we can continue to enjoy oysterroasts as part of our Lowcountry
  • 1 official state carnivorous plant  
    • Venus flytraps arenow our state-designated carnivorous plant! While this designation doesn’t offer protections for this globally-imperiled Horry County native, it does ensure future generations of South Carolinians will learn about them and their fire-maintained habitat. We enjoyed closely working alongside several state legislators, lobbyists, and partner organizations to get this signed into law by Governor McMaster.


Of course, many of our priority projects have been ongoing since the reopening of the North Coast office in 2021 or even for decades before that. Here are two of our top continuing priorities for 2024: 


Advocating for mining reform
In addition to the fight to stop Conway Medical Center across from Lewis Ocean Bay, our opposition to the Edge Road sand mine on the border of the preserve was unsuccessful at the permitting stage so we took it to court. That suit is still in litigation, with hearings scheduled for the Mining Council and Administrative Law Court in January. Since then, we have seen two more permit applications in Horry County for mines adjacent to conservation lands: the expansion of the Depot Road mine next to the Waccamaw River Park and Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and the West Cox Ferry Road mine surrounded on three sides by the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. It is clear we need mining reforms at both the state level and local zoning ordinances in Horry County to combat the inappropriate siting of mines.  

Thankfully, Florence County is considering just that. In response to a proposed 260-acre sand mine in the Salem community abutting Deep Creek and just one mile upstream of the scenic Lynches River, Florence County Council passed an emergency ordinance putting in place a moratorium on new sand mines while an environmental analysis could be conducted and regulations considered. This is in no small part due to the more than 200 residents who attended, asked questions, and raised concerns at the DHEC public hearing in December.  


Battling unnecessary billion-dollar projects
For over 30 years, the Conservation League has advocated against I-73 and the formerly titled Southern Evacuation Lifeline, now known as the SC Highway 22 Extension. These unnecessary highways would destroy hundreds of acres of protected wetlands and farmland through communities already facing major flooding —and at exorbitant price tags. Now, Horry County is discussing a referendum for a 25-year transportation tax for the ballot in November 2024 to raise $4 billion in sales tax revenue to pay for these and other projects. Horry County plans to host a series of community meetings to garner feedback on the proposed project list at the end of January and we will need your help in ensuring improvements to our existing roads are prioritized before new highways. To learn more, join the Conservation League and Southern Environmental Law Center on Tuesday, January 16 at 6pm at the James R. Frazier Community Center in Bucksport to hear more about the SC Highway 22 Extension. 


With your help, we have made great strides addressing our priorities and we will continue the fight to ensure the North Coast remains a vibrant place to live, work, and play. No matter what happens, we know 2024 will be exciting and we hope you’ll continue to join us for the ride.  

Special thanks to the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, Waccamaw Community Foundation, and the many Conservation League donors and supporters who make this work possible.  


Wishing you a Happy New Year,


Contact Us

[email protected] · 843.723.8035

Stay Up-To-Date

Sign up for the latest news from the Coastal Conservation League and find out how you can get involved in our efforts.