SOS: Save the Northwest Arm of Halifax
For generations, the Northwest Arm has been a Jewel of Halifax available to everyone for transportation, fishing, recreational pursuits and at times national defense.
But this public resource is under threat because the Northwest Arm is being infilled by private landowners with water lot properties. We want the government to stop all infilling projects until laws and regulations can be put in place to protect the Northwest Arm.
Infills mean less water surface for public use. These projects are detrimental to the environment, navigation and fish and lobster habitats. The new land created increases the value of some of Nova Scotia’s most valuable real estate at the expense of the public use of the water. The underwater environment will never be recovered.
for a map showing all the water lots in the NW Arm. The effects on navigation, the environment, and the publics’ use of the Arm if all water lots were infilled would be catastrophic. The surface area of water in the NW Arm would be reduced by 31% and the width at the southern end would be reduced by more than half.
Background: Infilling on the Northwest Arm
Historically, we believe water lots along the Arm were deeded to preserve a landowners’ access to the water and allow for the construction of wharfs and moorings.
In the last 25 years, water lot owners have been filling in these lots to create more land for themselves, altering the coastline and removing water area useable by everyone.
In the more recent past, infilling has ignited public controversy due to their negative impacts on neighbours, the environment and the natural beauty and use of the Arm.
Despite public opposition, infilling continues
After the last controversy, in 2007, the City of Halifax revised zoning by-laws to curtail what can be built on an infilled lot. However, the City and the Province have no control over whether a water lot owner can infill in the first place and so infilling and challenging the rules continues.
When an infilling application is approved, there is significant local disruption as large earth moving vehicles truck in infilling material and the area is turned into a large construction zone with noise sometimes for weeks and months on end.
Infilling is a Federal jurisdiction
Currently, our understanding of the legal control over infilling is that the Federal Department of Transport has jurisdiction for approval of infill applications on the Arm, pursuant to the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, (R.S.S., 1985, c. N-22). We believe that additional factors, including fisheries, environmental and local input, must be considered before approving any infill project on the NW Arm.
Provincial Coastal Protection Act is unlikely to address infilling
The provincial Coastal Protection Act, (2nd Session, 63rd General Assembly, Nova Scotia, 68 Elizabeth II, 2019) (“Coastal Protection Act”), received Royal Assent on April 12, 2019. It seeks to protect Nova Scotia’s coastline for future generations by preventing environmentally damaging development and activity on locations adjacent to the coast. Unfortunately, we understand water lots are under Federal regulation, so the Coastal Protection Act will likely not address infilling in the NW Arm.
So, infilling projects detrimental to the NW Arm and the public’s enjoyment will continue to be approved. Worse, landowners intent on infilling will be incentivized to apply while inadequate protection of the Arm continues.
STOP all infilling until there is proper governance
We believe the time is right to invoke a “pause” on infill application approvals on the NW Arm.
We further believe the vast majority of other water lot owners and the public would wholeheartedly support the measure.
The NW Arm deserves protection by all levels of government. Otherwise, the current jurisdictional “gap”, which will remain open for at least another year if the regulations under the Coastal Protection Act do not adequately address the issues, could easily allow detrimental infill projects to slip through the gap and harm the NW Arm, the environment and ultimately the residents of Nova Scotia.
Please check out the information on this site and sign up to keep up to date on developments and to find out what more you can do.
Note: The content of this site including the petition is managed by the Ecology Action Centre’s Coastal Team who believes infilling and the governance of these projects is an issue deserving public awareness and action. Given the potential negative impacts of infilling on marine environments, fish, fish habitats, recreation and safe navigation in the Northwest Arm, the Ecology Action Centre is asking the federal government to pause approval of all infill projects until a regional assessment can be conducted to consider the cumulative impacts of infilling.
Senator makes Statement!
On June 16, 2021, the Honorable Colin Deacon, Independent Senator, Nova Scotia, released a statement urging the Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, to pause all approvals of applications for coastal water infill projects until the project has municipal and provincial support.
Please add your support for Senator Deacon’s suggestion by clicking and signing the petition and writing to your federal, provincial and municipal politicians thereby ensuring your voice is heard on this issue!