Nova Scotia Environment Minister Tim Halman has dismissed two appeals to his department to stop the construction of a road on wetlands located in the Eisner Cove-Mount Hope area of Dartmouth, N.S.
In releasing the decision on Friday, Halman, the minister and MLA for Dartmouth East, said he is satisfied staff and experts "exercised due diligence in reviewing the application and providing appropriate terms and conditions to the property owner."
Bill Zebedee, one of the appellants, called the decision disappointing.
Zebedee, president of Protect Our Southdale Wetland Society, took particular issue with Halman's claim the wetland was not "considered a wetland of special significance."
"We have a document that says that there are rare water birds that live in the wetland and rare plants that live in the wetland," Zebedee said. "I don't know how more significant … you can get.
"We already know that there's otters in there. We know that there's deer and a bunch of other animals, 45 species of birds, 35 of which are migratory."
Zebedee and the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre both appealed to Halman to stop the access road based on five points:
The property owner's application was incomplete.
It threatened wood turtles in the area.
The approval may impact two or more hectares of wetland.
The area is a wetland of special significance.
The requirement for monitoring means the applicant did not properly assess the area of the wetland which would be disturbed.
Halman rejected all those arguments based on his department's examination of the file, the fact "several surveys found no evidence of wood turtles" that are considered threatened in Nova Scotia, and on the advice of an independent ecologist who determined the area was "not a suitable habitat for wood turtles."
"After a thorough review and analysis of the appellants' claims and the A.J. LeGrow Holdings Ltd. application, the minister found no grounds for the appeals," noted the department in Friday's news release.
"Our natural areas and wetlands are necessary for our health, our environment and our economy, and I understand why people want them protected and are passionate in their resolve to fight for them," said Halman. "However, private property owners have the right to request alterations."
The groups can appeal the decision, but Zebedee isn't convinced going to court would prevent the work from going ahead.
"Even if we take it to the Supreme Court, the developer can still come in and put in this bridge or this road that they're planning on building so they can alter the wetland," he said. "And then if the Supreme Court agrees with me, the damage has already been done."
Zebedee said the society's board will meet Saturday to decide what to do next.
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