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Plan to infill cove along Dartmouth's waterfront continues to anger many locals

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A public meeting at Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth, N.S., was standing room only Wednesday night as residents gathered for an update on a controversial project.

Transport Canada has given approval for Atlantic Road Construction and Paving to dump approximately 100,000 cubic metres of pyritic slate into the Dartmouth Cove.

More than 150 people packed into the library’s Helen Creighton Room for an update on the infill project.

Some people had to be turned away at the door due to the large turn out.

A founding member of the Friends of Dartmouth Cove community group said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who attended.

Jill Brogan of the Friends of Dartmouth Cove community group speaks at a public meeting on June 12, 2024. (James Kvammen/CTV Atlantic)

Jill Brogan added there is still much that can be done, despite the project’s approval.

“This meeting was to rally everybody to say, 'don't give up, it's not too late,' we can save Dartmouth Cove, we just need to do it the right way,” she told CTV Atlantic.

“Talk to the right people, keep writing, and keep advocating for our rights for the cove.”

Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher has been against the infill project from day one and rose in the House of Commons earlier this week to condemn the infill proposal. He informed his legislative colleagues and the public that the company sent him a letter asking him to stop advocating against infill proposal.

“We received a cease and desist letter,” said Fisher in a phone interview with CTV News from Ottawa. “I would say that my job, the very nature of my job, is to stand up for the people in my community and bring their voice back to Ottawa. That’s not negotiable and not something that I would ever consider stopping.”

Fisher says the federal government is limited in its scope jurisdictionally to impose any restrictions on the proposed infill aside from scope of Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. However, he points to the municipality of the Halifax Regional Municipality which he says has jurisdiction as well and can address the infill proposal through their land-use and planning bylaws.

Halifax lawyer and Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law professor Phillip Saunders has taught marine and environmental law and agrees with Fisher, saying the municipality does have jurisdiction and they shouldn’t pass it off as a federal issue alone.

“They should be enforcing their own land use planning bylaws and demanding a development permit for this, which they have admitted that the lands in question underwater are within the jurisdiction of the county,” said Saunders, who believes all levels of government have a role to play in this proposal.

A CN railway cuts across the property and the proposed infill site in Dartmouth Cove.

From a Transport Canada perspective, Saunders says they are only concerned and focused on matters that relate to navigating the waters, and they aren’t concerned with development.

While the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is concerned with fish habitat and other marine life that might be affected said Saunders, it’s the municipality who would be concerned with land and infill extension of the property.

On April 29, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed to CTV News they informed the road construction company that more time was needed to review its infill proposal.

“Our review considers a variety of factors including the scale of the project, the characteristics of the fish and fish habitat affected, and avoidance, mitigation and offsetting measures,” said the statement.

The Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (COVE) is concerned over the infill proposal. They are headquartered along the Dartmouth Cove and filled an application in federal court for a judicial review of the approval of the proposal from Transport Canada.

COVE declined an interview with CTV News citing the pending court proceedings.

The company Atlantic Road Construction and Paving also declined an interview, saying their CFO Bruce Wood was unavailable for comment.

However, in their proposal to the federal government, Atlantic Road Construction and Paving says all materials dumped would be free of pollutants and a silt curtain would be installed in the water around the project zone to contain the spreading of sediment.

The Halifax Regional Municipality says the proponent has not submitted any development applications and declined an interview saying it was a matter of federal jurisdiction.

In November, Halifax council directed staff and legal service to prepare a report regarding Dartmouth Cove but no timeline was shared as to when that report might come back to council.

If the project goes ahead, work on the infill will begin in September.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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