The federal government is seeking public feedback on a proposal to infill the Halifax Harbour at Dartmouth Cove, and the councillor and MP for the area aren’t impressed.
4197847 Nova Scotia Ltd., owned by Bruce Wood, applied in March to fill its 2.7-hectare water lot, PID # 00114132 or 1 Parker St., with rock from excavation projects. According to Property Valuation Services Corporation, the property was sold in April 2021 for $800,000. The numbered company was incorporated the month before. The application, made under Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program, was posted online last week.
“The Project Area will be infilled with approximately 99,700 cubic metres (m3) of material, including approximately 41,900 m3 of sulphide-bearing material (i.e., pyritic slate) from local excavation projects and approximately 57,800 m3 of non-acidic quarry rock,” the application says.
It’s the same kind of infilling used to build up the nearby King’s Wharf development and other areas in Halifax Harbour, like Mill Cove in Bedford and the Fairview Terminal next to Africville.
“Fill will be placed by end-dumping from tandem trucks. An excavator will be used to push the infill material into the water lot, working seaward from the existing shoreline,” the application for Dartmouth Cove states.
“A silt curtain will be installed around the Project Area prior to the commencement of in-water Project activities. Infilling activities will be visually monitored, and additional mitigation will be implemented as necessary in the event that a visible sediment plume migrates beyond the silt curtain. No dredging is expected to be conducted prior to infilling.”
The infilling will permanently displace the fish habitat in the area, but the applicant argues the existing habitat is “of relatively poor quality and low productivity.” The property owner is also applying under the Fisheries Act, and will develop a plan to offset the loss “through habitat restoration and enhancement.”
The property owner is proposing to build a temporary gravel access road to allow trucks to bring in the rock in. The work would start August 1, 2022 and last until August 1, 2028.
“The intention is for the infilled Project Area to provide enhanced waterfront access and land that will eventually enable future development,” the application says.
There’s currently a municipally-owned multi-use path along the waterfront in the cove, connecting the bottom of Old Ferry Road to Maitland Street, Canal Street, and then King’s Wharf and on to the Alderney Ferry Terminal.
The design documents indicate two public benches along the path would be temporarily removed to make way for the access road, and the project area appears to encroach on the path.
Despite the intention to “eventually enable future development,” Coun. Sam Austin said the property would be zoned as parkland, meaning it wouldn’t be developable.
“To infill this, they’re going to get all the development rights of the Dartmouth Common,” Austin, the councillor for the area, said.
“It’s clearly not thought out. It’s either pyritic slate dump, speculation or probably, ‘Hey, I can do 1 and maybe I’ll 2.’”
Austin said the municipal pathway sits partially on an easement over the numbered company’s property. But elsewhere the proponent would have to cross municipal and Develop Nova Scotia land with the access road to get to the property. Austin hopes there’s a practical way HRM could stop the development, potentially by blocking that access. He said he’s working on a motion to bring to council regarding the project.
“Just using the Dartmouth Waterfront as a dump site, I mean, that’s not a plan. That’s not a good use for this,” Austin said.
Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher agrees.
“Dartmouth shouldn’t be a dumping ground for someone’s fill. From what I am seeing, there doesn’t seem to be a plan in place from the proponent, other than dumping pyritic slate and quarry rock into Dartmouth Cove over multiple years,” Fisher wrote in a statement to the Examiner.
“Unfortunately, a regulatory gap exists between all orders of government on these pre-Confederation water lots, and as we are seeing, more and more lot owners are infilling.”
Fisher said he’s unable to interfere with the approval process, but he’s writing to the federal ministers of Transportation, Fisheries and Oceans, and Environment and Climate Change “to call for a review on infilling to make sure our waterways are better protected.”
“With increased development across HRM, we will see an increased need to sequester pyritic slate, and all orders of government should be at the table to come up with a proper plan and a solution for this fill, that makes sense for our communities,” Fisher said.
He encouraged people to submit their concerns. The federal government is accepting comments on the proposal at this link until June 10 at 5am.