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Protecting Eisner Cove: Dartmouth residents protest housing project slated for wetland

Click to play video: 'Dartmouth residents concerned about housing project on wetland' Dartmouth residents concerned about housing project on wetland
WATCH: There are calls from some Dartmouth residents for the Nova Scotia government to halt an affordable housing project. Mount Hope Village is slated to be constructed right on top of the Eisner Cove wetland – but as Graeme Benjamin reports, environmental activists say the province should be preserving the wetland, not destroying it – Aug 10, 2022

There are calls from residents in Dartmouth for the Nova Scotia government to halt an affordable housing project that they say will permanently alter the community’s largest wetland.

Mount Hope Village is slated to be constructed right on top of the Eisner Cove wetland. If approved, the 45-hectare development — led by Clayton Developments — would be located between the Woodside Industrial Park and Highway 111.

The goal is to create 700 “attainable” housing units.

“We’re concerned with the fast-tracking that’s happened here,” says Bill Zebedee, president of the Protect Our Southdale Wetland Society. “They came in in December of last year in the cover of darkness and clear-cut a logging road of about three kilometres long.”

Read more: Taber, Alta. breaks ground on constructed wetlands to aid with flood mitigation

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Zebedee and the Protect Our Southdale Wetland Society are appealing a decision made last June by the Nova Scotia environment department that approves a road to bisect the wetland.

He says the wetland is home to several rare forms of wildlife that the environment department did not take into consideration when making its decision, like migratory nesting birds, wood turtles and three different types of bats.

“That information didn’t make it to city council and then by extension it didn’t make it to the provincial government,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Wetland activists rally against planned development in Mount Hope' Wetland activists rally against planned development in Mount Hope
Wetland activists rally against planned development in Mount Hope – Apr 9, 2022

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment declined an interview, referencing an appeal of the department’s approval that’s under review.

However, in a statement, department spokesperson Tracy Barron said development can happen in or near a wetland, but if there is impact to more than two hectares of wetland, an environmental assessment is needed.

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“The Department reviewed the application with respect to sensitive species of concern,” said Barron. “No evidence of Black Ash, Wood Turtles or any other endangered species was found within the wetland area, which was the subject/scope of the approval.

“Anyone who has evidence of harm being done to an endangered species should report it to us if it relates to a current approval, or to Natural Resources and Renewables.”

Zebedee isn’t sure how the department came to that conclusion.

“We believe there’s Black Ash here,” he said. “We could be wrong. We’re willing to wear that egg on our face. But we’d prefer to be wrong than right and do nothing.”

Read more: Dartmouth residents hold rally to protect Southdale wetlands from development

Zebedee also has concerns over whether the community’s infrastructure can handle a bump in population, and whether the housing will be affordable at all.

“There are 10 people living back here homeless,” he said. “They will not be able to afford to live here and their homes are being ripped down.”

Mimi O’Handley, the Wetlands and Water Coordinator with the Ecology Action Centre, says addressing the housing crisis can be achieved without alerting wetlands.

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It’s not housing versus the environment. We can have both,” said O’Handley. “On the Halifax peninsula almost 100 per cent of the wetlands have been destroyed because of human activity.

“Eisner Cove is that last big remaining one so it’s extra important that we protect it.”

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