An approval of almost $90,000 last week will move along the construction timeline for the Tega Cay-Gold Hill Connector.
York County Council approved $89,830 at its Nov. 18 meeting for environmental mitigation associated with the construction of the connector road.
Construction projects that impact public waters must compensate for that impact. They can improve wetlands, creeks, streams or similar areas on-site, but more often, purchase credits from a mitigation bank where environmental improvements already have been made.
Work on such road projects can’t begin until the environmental work is planned or the credits purchased.
“The permits must be obtained prior to any construction activities taking place within these regulated areas,” according to the county staff request for funding. “To obtain the necessary permits, appropriate mitigation must be identified and approved that provides just compensation for the proposed impacts.”
Phil Leazer, engineer for the county, said last week’s approval was “the next step in the process” and that design of the road’s right-of-way is 30 percent complete. Drainage design and permitting come next. Environmental and other assessments have been done already.
“We’re in very good shape with that project,” Leazer said. “Right now we’re looking at completing and opening it in 2015.”
The connector road, an extension of Hubert Graham Way, now a cul-de-sac, impacts 290 feet of stream. Campco Engineering is designing the project and recommended 691 mitigation credits at $130 per credit, for the final $89,830 total.
The money comes from the $1.5 million budgeted for the project that county voters approved in 2003 during the second round of Pennies for Progress. The only current seller of credits for York County is the Taylor’s Creek Stream Mitigation Bank.
The Taylor’s Creek bank is located in Fairfield County, about 35 miles north of Columbia. It includes 1,100 acres and seven miles of stream, and is connected to Lake Wateree where the Catawba River turns into the Wateree. Taylor’s Creek provides credits for projects where, according to the company, on-site efforts to mitigate environmental impact are “not available, adequate, feasible or practicable.”
“It’s a permanent improvement,” said Taylor’s Creek owner Mike Tighe, who added that mitigation bank projects include a conservation easement so work can’t be undone later. “And that helps the environment, wildlife and everything else.”
The connector is in the design phase now, and a construction company hasn’t yet been selected. The two-lane road will run from Gold Hill to Hubert Graham Parkway, along the Tega Cay city limit line.
In recent months, work on a variety of Pennies and other projects have been moving smoothly for the county, many coming in under budget – sending the excess budget funds down the prioritized list of needs. The U.S. 21 bridge connecting Fort Mill and Rock Hill, for instance, wrapped up $13 million under budget due to a state bridge replacement grant it received. This summer York County Council sent $4 million from the remainder to the connector road, and funneled the rest through other Pennies needs.
Leazer said his group will present and update to council at its Dec. 16 meeting on Pennies 2, the $173 million list of 25 projects voters approved in 2003.
“That’s going to show a very, very good picture,” Leazer said.