A Nova Scotia ocean technology research and development hub is taking the minister of Transport Canada to court, after the department approved a construction firm's proposal to dump 100,000 cubic metres of rock into Halifax harbour's Dartmouth Cove.

In court documents filed this week, the Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship (COVE) warned some research operations could be forced to cease if the proposal to infill 2.7 hectares adjacent to the facility is allowed to go ahead.

The infilling project, which would include rock such as pyritic slate from construction sites around Halifax and would create land for future development, has been opposed by a neighbourhood group, the local councillor and the federal MP for the area.

COVE was founded in 2018 as a not-for-profit, and millions of dollars of public money have been spent on the centre. The facility aims to advance ocean technology and grow businesses by offering marine facilities and spaces for shops and laboratories to companies and academic researchers.

'I'm sure there is a path forward'

COVE filed for a judicial review in Federal Court on Wednesday, seeking an order overturning Transport Canada's decision. The court filings also name the numbered company proposing the project, which is associated with Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd.

While Transport Canada has approved the infilling application related to navigation, a separate approval is also needed from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is examining whether the project adheres to the Fisheries Act.

Bruce Wood, the chief financial officer of Atlantic Road Construction and Paving, told CBC News the company will address the claims by COVE once it sees them.

"I'm sure there is a path forward," he said.

As a civil contractor, he said Atlantic Road Construction and Paving digs up large amounts of pyritic slate during projects in Halifax, and it needs to find environmentally safe ways to dispose of it, similar to other major construction firms in the city.

A spokesperson for COVE declined comment.

Transport Canada and a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriguez did not reply to a request for comment.

Claims by COVE

But the centre said in court filings it currently has 60 tenants and is used by more than 350 marine-sector organizations. Its chief concern with the infilling proposal is that it could restrict vessels, including those used for research and by the coast guard and military, from using floating docks at the site.

It also said the project will prevent the operation of the subsea platform Stella Maris, which sits about 10 metres below the surface and is used to test marine sensors, because its location, which was approved by Transport Canada, abuts the planned infilling zone.

No date has been set to hear the judicial review.

Dartmouth-Cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher, who represents the area, said he was "flabbergasted" when the infilling project was approved, and said Dartmouth is "not a dump site for someone's construction waste."

He said he has asked Rodriguez to cancel the project.

"If you ask anybody, there's no question that this project would impede the work that COVE is doing," he said in an interview.