HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Horry County Rising will continue to push for wetland protections in 2023.

Horry County Rising’s efforts last year resulted in Horry County establishing a flood plan. However, it has not yet seen the kind of improvements it had hoped to see in wetland protection measures.

Wetlands make up almost 40% of Horry County’s total land area. April O’Leary, president of Horry County Rising, said there are vast benefits of wetlands.

“Not only do they provide a significant flood mitigation benefit, but they also have significant other benefits like water quality, making sure they act really as a kidney and filter all of our water, ensuring we have clean drinking water,” O’Leary said. “Waccamaw River is certainly a source of drinking water here locally.”

Horry County Rising’s goal for the year is to see the stronger protections.

“There may not be political support to actually codify wetland protections beyond or exceeding state and federal standards,” O’Leary said. “There are certainly incentive-based measures that we can do, but we’re pushing for both. We’re pushing for both incentive-based measures, design strategies, and regulations as a direct result of what we’ve seen here locally with respect to new development.”

O’Leary said major residential subdivisions are having an impact on the wetlands. One resident said in her two years of living in Horry County, she has witnessed a major flood near her neighborhood.

“It was just, you couldn’t drive your car through it,” said Joan White, who lives in Cameron Village. “It was right up to the doors so you either got stuck or your car got filled with water. Unless you had big, big wheels to get through it, you weren’t getting through it.”

The wetlands also have a significant impact on Horry County’s economy.

“By protecting these areas and doing things like conservation subdivisions or cluster subdivisions, it’s actually more cost-effective to design these projects this way because you’re not bringing in as much infrastructure,” O’Leary said.

For more on Horry County Rising and its goals, visit its website.

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Claire Purnell is a multimedia journalist at News13. Claire is from Louisville, Kentucky. Claire joined the News13 team in January 2023 after graduating from the University of Colorado-Boulder in December 2022. Follow Claire on Twitter and read more of her work here.