Community members oppose proposed site for DND testing facility at Hartlen Point, N.S.

Click to play video: 'Residents oppose DND testing facility in Eastern Passage, N.S.'
Residents oppose DND testing facility in Eastern Passage, N.S.
WATCH: A proposed Department of National Defence testing facility planned within the Halifax Regional Municipality is facing growing opposition. Callum Smith reports – Feb 1, 2023

A Department of National Defence (DND) testing facility, to be located along the coast of Hartlen Point in Eastern Passage, N.S., is drawing more concerns from community members.

A public information session was held Tuesday night regarding the 11,500-square-metre facility. It will provide a space to test 15 warships that will be built as part of the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) fleet.

But Hartlen Point isn’t the area to house it, says Tony Rusinak, who lives nearby.

“Everything from fishing to recreation to mental health,” he says. “This is an internationally renowned birding location. It’s also one of the last wild spaces on the ocean in this area, in a fast-growing community.”

The location of the proposed site, as it stands, is shown on this map
The location of the proposed site, as it stands, is shown on this map. Courtesy: Department of National Defence

Nearly 18,000 people agree with him, according to an online petition.

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DND owns the land in question and has granted public access to it.

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Access to the immediate area around construction will be restricted for security and safety reasons, the department says.

To that end, Rusinak, who attended the Tuesday session, is also worried about radio frequency emissions that will come from the building.

DND has done several environmental studies and says “safety of the local community and environment is paramount,” pointing to “rigorous” radio frequency compliance requirements.

Coun. Becky Kent, who represents the area, was also one of many in attendance at the presentation Tuesday.

“It’s a tricky spot,” she says.

That’s because she appreciates the need for DND to do testing, but she’s hearing a lot of worry from within the community, so she’s been advocating to Ottawa.

“If in fact, this (location has been finalized), can we work together to make sure that the birds are cared for, the wetlands are protected, the access around birdwatching, the access to the coastline, the impact to those who would use the waterways could be minimized and that we can create a good relationship with them — to continue that,” she says in a virtual interview. “I was assured that they would.”

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DND says this won’t be a weapons testing facility and no weapons will be kept at the site.

A presentation from the Tuesday night session says the distance to CFB Halifax and a 130-degree arc to the open ocean are two reasons why the area was chosen.

But Rusinak says a lack of initial public consultation has irked people.

“DND has put the cart before the horse,” he says. “They did not consult the locals on local history, on local context, on the importance of this place to our community, to our city, to our province, to Nova Scotia’s coastline. They chose this place for convenience: close to the shipyard and close to (CFB) Shearwater.”

A previous DND statement sent to Global News in January says it will ensure safety for all involved.

“We can also assure everyone that we will comply with all relevant federal environmental legislation and regulations in the area, including the endangered species act, for the protection of environment, wildlife, birds, and bats,” Jessica Lamirande, a media relations spokesperson wrote.

Orange ‘Move the Build Protect Hartlen Point’ signs have been popping up around the city for months. Callum Smith / Global News

The total project cost is pegged at $129 million. Construction is to begin later this year, with brush clearing and other site preparation work expected to start in March.


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