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Floods, fires, and battles about our beloved headland in Eastern Passage…for Peat sake!

Floods, fires, and battles about our beloved headland in Eastern Passage…for Peat sake! Posted on June 7, 2023Leave a comment

Many of us also feel very let down by the municipality at the moment as the HRM Standing Committee cancelled our presentation with 1 week notice – we had the appointment confirmed 2 months ago and have been working hard to prepare so both disappointing and disrespectful to our volunteers.

In our “bird-friendly city” at that. Where we were to discuss the best birding location in the city, and possibly the entire province.

One way narratives make me very nervous, as does superfluous collaboration with influencers and groups for political theater such as moving an Osprey nest a few feet as though that were the most important thing happening at the site. I assure you as a birder and longtime resident of Eastern Passage and having had Osprey eying up the power pole on my front lawn that same week, that is not the main event but sure looked like a win for DND on social media and their direct communications to the public through email campaigns and other mediums. We have far bigger issues at hand, and 69 breeding birds who depend on the biodiversity at Hartlen Point and it’s immediate vicinity. Which is being destroyed rapidly with more at risk.

We were told that “brushing” would start just before the breeding season.

Honestly I had no idea that meant cutting down all the trees.  Brushing?  Holy greenwashing.  Not cool. It was actually a gigantic swath of trees completely removed and the size of the site expanding rapidly. “Scope creep” appears to already be a reality and that is just one reason we have requested a full impact assessment be done.

I took this photo of this little Common Yellowthroat Warbler a few years ago at Hartlen Point in the Alders right where the gravel for the road is. Shows that even a small tree matters. Bats are great, but Warblers are fantastic insectivores too. We get 32 species of breeding Warblers in NS each summer and they eat bugs like angry birds!

I mean really if you think about it, removing all the trees, followed by road and service installlation, make DND’s project just as ‘fully under construction’ as any other project in the same stage. They just wanted to spin it differently to residents as going slower so they would think no need to worry, nothing to see here, just taking it slow. Which breeds complacency.

And so they hired Prospectus to run their engagement session on January 31st.

Who took 3 months to deliver the transcripts, and in the end didn’t even produce the transcripts of the online portion of the session. Not my idea of transparency.

Anyway, if the Feds and HRM don’t care about the birds and wildlife, eh em…

maybe they could show more care and concern for local human residents of Eastern Passage, South East Passage, and Cow Bay Nova Scotia?

As fires raged across HRM it resonated for me here in Eastern Passage and living about 1KM as the crow flies from the potential future home of a Land Based Testing Facility, that our concerns about infrastructure and wetlands which have been ignored by our governments could have very grave consequences should we have our own community emergency.

It does appear that HRM is beginning to understand the important of egress, but when DND is involved it’s difficult to say how that shakes out. There is a great deal of negotiation going on between federal and municipal employees about the Hartlen Point project which is why I believe we need to hear a lot more about the project from our MP, Darrell Sampson and our HRM Councillor, Becky Kent.

Access roads and fire and emergencies are all on our minds these days. And for those of us who live in Eastern Passage and Cow Bay, floods are also a concern.

During the driest and most hazardous time for fires, here in Eastern Passage the sea water was almost level with the shore road on Saturday evening. A perfect storm for trapping residents who have only one way in and out of our community. Can you imagine if the coast was flooding at the same time our headland was on fire?

Looking at the water levels yesterday while the fires raged across Halifax and Nova Scotia, I could imagine the scenario very clearly.

There are a number of houses between Harlen Point and the Caldwell Road intersection on Shore Road that could be blocked during an emergency.  Also, several cul de sac sudvisions.

What those people do not need is increased employee traffic, construction, and machinery being introduced in an already high risk scenario at the end of a dead end road at high risk of flooding.

Nor do our local residents need wetlands being filled in at the end of this road.

Out of date, inaccurate traffic statements are designed to control the narrative but those of us who live here know the truth. I mean it’s accurate for a day in 2019 that all the schools were closed, before our population growth, covid, and there was no traffic I guess.

I almost missed a flight last year because of a race as I only had one way out of my neighourhood and had the threaten to phone the police to be escorted out as the race volunteers refused to let me exit Murray Road to Caldwell.  I can’t imagine a fire or other dangerous situation.  There is also no fire hydrant on my street and at the end we are more than 1.5KM from the fire station. 

Shore Road already floods during storms, and we are just about at sea level.  And it is rapidly rising.

That will affect rising sea levels and the whole facility could be underwater before the testing is even completed, and then those submarines we apparently need now would be a much better use of all that money.

So filling in wetlands and removing vegetation at our irreplaceable coastal headland makes no sense when the same technology was tested in Burnside, and could be again.

I walked at Hartlen Point on Friday and there was still moisture in the ground at a time when it was so dry that the Nova Scotia wildfires could not be contained and it had been 31 degrees Celsius the day before.

Shows how precious every drop of water it, and what poor judgement must be in place to decide to fill in existing wetlands near residential areas.  Well anywhere for that matter, but since the loss of property seems to be the primary concern of firefighters, then certainly not near any development should we fill in wetlands.

“Hartlen Point Soils: According to the Natural Resources Canada (NRC) soil survey, the underlying
substrate surrounding the wetlands consists mostly of sandy clay loam soils. The NRC
soil survey identifies the substrate underlying HP-5 and HP-6 as peat”

taken from :

That makes sense to me as there is mostly squishy ground, Pitcher Plants, and low cranberries in the area. In many areas you need to wear tall rubber boots or you will sink and soak your shoes. Around the radio tower area I often wear sandals birding as I’m short and it’s often up over my knees in water. Rarely can you walk the area without getting wet feet.

“Healthy peatlands are remarkably resilient to the impacts of fire. A significant amount of carbon is lost both to burning itself and through burn damage that impairs the growth of carbon-sequestering mosses. But these ecosystems are typically able to recover and restore their climate-regulating function within 10 to 30 years.

However, when bogs have been damaged, especially by drainage, they become vulnerable to wildfire.

Even without fire, drained bogs are net contributors of carbon. When they burn, they burn much more deeply because their peat reserves are dry and dense. These self-propagating smouldering fires can spew millions of tonnes of carbon and harmful, toxic smoke into our atmosphere.”


The coastal headland and peat bogs are very close to houses, but it would seem that zoning can be friend or foe.

Apparently it is not okay to put a Land Based Testing Facility next to urban development?  But somehow it’s okay to put it next to suburban, and rural. But then in a few years it gets rezoned to urban and they say oopsy, it’s all done now. My bad.

There are homes very close to Hartlen Point you just can’t see them as they are on a long rural road all tucked away.  But we can see Osbourne Head when we look out down here at the end.  Same view you get from Hartlen Point.  Same essential area. 

We have no municipal water here on our road that is right next to Hartlen Point, yet HRM is going to provide municipal water services to Hartlen Point.  Hardly seems fair especially when our tax assessments just went up substantially, and we have no sewage, no fire hydrant, no municipal water, no sidewalks. And now more traffic potentially blocking us in and increased risk of wildfires.

But the thing that upsets most people is the septic that is apparently planned for Hartlen Point. I took this photo a few years ago from the “Back Bay”. This is about right smack in the middle of where septic run off is expected to flow. The trees have been cut behind this area. Having walked there in the past it required rubber boots almost every day of the year because it is the Hartlen Till as it’s called. And without trees it will slide into the ocean from erosion. The current rate of erosion they have documented in the reports on DND’s informational page peg the rate at the astounding figure of 1 meter/year. Read the hundreds of pages of documents at your leisure. You will find many things that are alarming to say the least.

It wasn’t in the brochure or part of the presentation on January 31st but it was let to slip at the session by one of the speakers that the intention is to install a big septic system (for 150+ people) which will mean a septic field that drains into the “back bay” at Hartlen Point.  Which is the most ecologically sensitive area of the headland both on land and water.

This is the same spot the deer was standing but I took this photo in April 2023. Any wonder in the days after the “brushing” deer showed up all over the area in people’s yards nearby. Who else was displaced?

There are also lobster spawning grounds in the waters around the back bay. But right about where these photos were taken there will be septic runoff.

What do the fishermen have to say about this?

Oh, right, fishermen were not really consulted about any of this. If they were that is sure news to me because I’ve spoken with many and they say they were left completely out of the conversation.

There is a race to control the narrative.

As such we have had a lot of one way communication from DND and the PR firm they paid over $100k to spin things to the community and what we are being told is not the whole story.

A failed septic system can result in the contamination of groundwater.

According to the soil characterization reports there is artesian groundwater present so septic seems like a really bad thing for neighbouring residents who have well water.

“Given the thickness of low permeability glacial till within the region it is unlikely the overburden would be exploited as a productive groundwater resource. Groundwater within the region is expected to follow
topographic and/or bedrock contours. As a result, groundwater is assumed to flow toward Halifax Harbour or Cow Bay. The nearest resident (Shore Road (900 m) and Sandpiper Drive (850 m) are supplied by municipal water services (ref. Halifax Water Service Boundary Mapping (
Four (4) water wells are identified on the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources water well logs
database ( to be in the vicinity of the site.
All four are located on the Hartlen Point Golf Course property. The four wells were installed in 1988 and
1989 to depths ranging from 200’ to 300’ (feet). No water usage records were available on the database.”

taken from : Studies, reports and other documentation

Oh but look at Murray Road where everyone has a well and at the end is just about 1km from where the LBTF and huge septic field will be and where peat bogs and wetlands are being filled in. What? The Hartlen Point Land Based Testing Facility will get city water before it’s offered to residents of Murray Road? Do residents know this? Well I’ve talked to a few and most do not know and when they find out they are not delighted. I’ve asked via my councilor for Halifax Water to report on why this is the case and no word yet.

And what about the poor family who purchased this parcel of land? It’s closer than the homes on Sandpiper Lane who have municipal services.

Why aren’t these things in the report? Are residents on Murray Road not considered important because we are not zoned Urban? It’s tough to wrap my head around. I can see Osbourne Head from my driveway so I feel a little forgotten by HRM and DND frankly. We were simply omitted from the reports it would seem.

“Surrounding Land Use
The Site is located on a relatively small point at the east entrance to Halifax Harbour, bordered by the
Atlantic Ocean to the south and east. The site is bounded by the Eastern Passage-Cow Bay Land-use
Classification UR (Urban Rural to the west, and RA (Rural Area to the north). Halifax Regional Municipality
Planning Services Environmental Constraint Mapping identifies no local constraints. The surrounding area
land-use restrictions are governed by the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Land-Use By-Law, Schedule
A. The surrounding area is located within the Municipal Stormwater Service Boundary. Immediately
surrounding land use consists of a golf course to the north. The remainder of the area is largely undeveloped
consisting of antenna facilities (including a tactical air navigation (TACAN) system – aircraft landing
beacon), a gravel helicopter landing pad and a CCG communications tower on the western side of the Site.”

So what would create a restraint?

And why fill in wetlands when you could just reduce the golf course from 18 to 9 holes anyway?

With an unwillingness to even consider giving up some of the golf course many of us are concerned about scope creep, which is a genuine concern since DND essentially approved their own project.

The IAAC determined that it has to be reviewed to see if it should have triggered a full impact assessment.

Minister Guilbeault is reviewing the project, as per the IAAC’s request. The public is invited to comment until July 8th.

As well, realistic mitigation should things proceed after passing a full impact assessment, should absolutely involved rewilding some of the golf course.  It’s the least you that could be done to try to compensate residents for destroying wetlands and contributing to our risk of wildfires.

Protect surrounding lands also needs to be done. 

We have over 20K signatures on our petition, but apparently it’s not the right kind of petition to be presented to Ottawa.

That is nonsense and just more bureaucracy that hampers democracy in my opinion.

To provide info about project concerns, omissions, etc. for the impact assessment request, here are the IAAC and Minister’s email addresses, please use Hartlen Point in your subject line:

Numerous ATIPs have been ignored, in tandem with a PR firm being retained by DND to the tune of over 100K. This concerns me as a Canadian who values democracy.

There is a point where PR can cross the line into propaganda and that is frightening and to be avoided at all costs frankly so exercise your part of the democratic process. As with Hartlen Point, you may not appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Some things are worth protecting.

The community was promised another meeting before any development in the fall but now there is a road being built and apparently getting ready to put in municipal services and a huge septic field without the local residents really being made to understand all that is happening?  Beyond uncool. Things were well underway before full studies and reports were released, and the transcript was late and incomplete. Follow up is definitely required immediately so people in the community finally have a fully informed say about what is happening in their own community.

I requested another meeting to CFB Public Affairs over a month ago , it was ignored. And you know what, that is okay. I think the community has heard enough of one way communication and fancy spin to be frank.

At this point I see no place for DND at this meeting.  We’ve had enough of your “information sessions”.

We need a community roundtable, maybe at the Buffalo Club.  That is not controlled by politicians or DND.  A safe space for residents to voice their concerns.  With representatives from 3 levels of government invited, but not controlling the narrative.

We request a promise of zero future development on Hartlen Point the term “base” was loosely thrown around by DND and that does not sit well with local residents. No proper consideration was made for any other site and we already have a base down the road.  That is enough. Not to mention a concrete plant is being built soon which will be just beautiful like the oil tanks and other industrial wasteland that forms the entrance to our beautiful seaside community.

Don’t destroy the end of it too.

And don’t fence us in. In an emergency it could cost us our lives.

Please, protect Hartlen Point.

With both sadness and hope, Angela

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