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      Lack of permit delays Highway 31 extension

      Construction on the Highway 31 extension was supposed to start this fall. But without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, the project is delayed until summer 2012.

      "It is an individual permit that we are required to get for the impacts that we are causing to the environment," said South Carolina Department of Transportation Project Manager Leah Quattlebaum. "Part of that permit is how we will mitigate for those impacts."

      Since 2008, SC DOT has prepared to put the additional 4.3 miles on Highway 31 that would link Highway 544 with Highway 707.

      SC DOT applied for the permits with the Army Corps sometime ago, but it had to go back and get additional field information required for the permit, said Quattlebaum.

      "We had to confirm what wetlands were preserved in the originally 31 corridor." The DOT was not aware this permit was going to be required by the Army Corps, said Quattlebaum.

      The county will have to wait for until at least summer 2015 for the project to be completed, said Quattlebaum.

      Obtaining the permit from the Army Corps will take some time. "We have to do the field work. Apply for the permit. It has to go out for public notice. We have to get comments from the public then address those comments. It's quite a lengthy process."

      The cost estimate for the entire SC-31 extension project is between $201 and $216.5 million, which includes preliminary engineering, right of way acquisitions, and construction, said Quattlebaum.

      Even with the delay, Quattlebaum foresees no additional funds than what the project originally anticipated.

      When asked if the Army Corp will allow the DOT to receive the permit, Quattlebaum responded, "As far as we know, it will be."