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Environment: Conservation League watchdog will retire

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Nancy Cave plans to retire next summer after 15 years as director of the North Coast office of the Coastal Conservation League.

She said the league will keep the office open, though it could move north from Georgetown depending on the new director.

Cave started her career in Chicago with the CBS television affiliate WBBM and moved on to corporate jobs in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Charlotte. She went to work for the Coastal Conservation League after she married Billy Cave and moved to Georgetown County.

“I’ve learned an enormous amount about the natural environment along coastal South Carolina,” she said. “It is a unique area. We have some unique spots, Lewis Ocean Bay being one of them. We should do everything we can to protect them. Once gone, they are never coming back.”

Her name has become synonymous with the environmental movement that has used legal means to force corporations as well as state and local governments to defend their plans and practices. The 7th District state highway commissioner, Mike Wooten, blames her personally for holding up road projects in his district. Residents near Lewis Ocean Bay in Horry County picketed her office this summer when the Coastal Conservation League joined with the South Carolina Environmental Law Practice to take the county to court over their road-paving project. Environmentalists and Horry County had agreed on tunnels for the bears to go under the road when it was paved. Horry changed plans from a two-lane road to building a five-lane road with fencing that would prevent bears and other wildlife from roaming. Surrounding the bay with roads, Cave said, would turn it into an island and eventually ruin it as suitable wildlife habitat.

“One of the things I feel I’ve done over the years is made utilities, corporations or state and local governments be accountable for what they are doing,” she said.

Cave said stopping a new coal-fired electric plant on the Great Pee Dee River in southern Florence County was among the highlights of her career. “It was a three-year effort that was a great success,” she said, “but it took a lot of people a lot of effort. It started locally, moved statewide and became part of a national movement to close coal plants.”

She said reaching agreements with Santee Cooper to remove coal ash from its Granger plant in Conway and Duke Power to do the same in Hartsville were positive outcomes.

“There is a balance that has to be considered between protecting the built environment and the natural environment,” she said.

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