A disputed bridge project through Congaree National Park got the go-ahead from a federal judge this week after years of legal disputes over the $33 million construction jobs impact on the federally protected nature preserve.
U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour has ruled against environmental groups and park supporters seeking to halt construction. Part of the U.S. 601 project has already been done, but the rest had been stopped while Seymour considered the case.
Michael Corley, a lawyer representing environmental groups, said they were disappointed with the ruling, but unsure about an appeal. Park boosters, including Friends of Congaree Swamp, wanted the bridge and road replacement project altered to protect more wetlands and the floodplain.
S.C. Department of Transportation officials said changing the project could drive up costs. They applauded Seymours decision this week.
SCDOT can now complete this project within the original budget, and the public will have four new bridges that meet current design and safety standards to use on this major route, said state Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge.