Not content to usher in the rapid erosion of Portsmouth’s charm through poorly regulated, oversized development of dubious quality, the city is pushing hard for what  critics say is a shortsighted, ecologically-incorrect plan to decapitate and virtually wreck one of its finest natural assets– Peirce Island.

The final plan– which had its first reading in mid-February and some say was snuck in just before school vacation week–  is to spend years erecting a massively expanded multi-foot high sewage treatment plant on tiny Peirce Island in the Piscataqua River. Portsmouth’s new City Council is due to vote March 7 on the plan, which is likened to building a giant toilet in the city’s front yard.

Proponents of the plan– led by Portsmouth City Manager John Bohenko, a Pease Development Authority board-member– claim the sewage plan can’t go to Pease because the city is out of time and the fight over the city’s sewage has dragged on for too many years, the EPA and Conservation Law Foundation  are forcing this on the city to meet federal water standards,  several businesses don’t want it at Pease, Peirce Island has to be dug up anyway to improve the outfall pipe which will stay on Peirce Island, routing pipes to Pease will mess up the downtown, building it on Peirce Island is far cheaper than doing it at Pease, too much money has been spent on designing the expanded Peirce Island plant already, those who want to save Peirce Island are naïve dreamers and it’s too late to change plans. Although the new City Council will have the final say, some members of the new City Council– seven of whom were promoted for election by former mayor turned political strategist and lobbyist Steve Marchand–  claim the last council made the decision and it’s out of their hands. The Portsmouth Herald, which does not have a recent history of fighting editorially for the city’s character– has its offices at Pease. And the city administration really wants the plan and makes gauzy presentations about it:

Meanwhile, proponents of expanding the plant at Pease instead say this plan will destroy Peirce Island and involves more poor stewardship of the city’s most precious assets, years of big trucks and heavy machinery will totally disrupt downtown Portsmouth and fragile Strawbery Banke streets and buildings, affecting tourist businesses, hotels and restaurants, it will harm the river environment, jeopardize the city’s waterfront and destroy yet another water view, lower property values, Peirce Island is so small the city’s sewage will inevitably have to go to Pease some day anyway, this plan is a false economy because all the costs haven’t been counted and the numbers– which can be crunched many ways– don’t add up, contrary to “grossly exaggerated” fear-mongering, the pipes could be run upriver or threaded through the city via new technology, and most egregiously, this plan does not account for sea level rise. At a recent meeting about the plan, dozens of opponents showed up en masse and threatened to swamp the city with tax abatement requests if the plan goes through.

To save Peirce Island, critics of the city’s efforts suggest contacting City Councilors, writing LTEs, showing up for the March 7 City Council meeting and crucial public hearing, and connecting with this website:

Ever Heard of Global Warming?

“Someone should wake up the City Council and tell them global warming is real,” an observer said. “I hope they have amphibious vehicles budgeted in their capital plan– because in 20 years they’re going to need them. The new City Council after barely two months on the job is about to decide on the most expensive project in the city’s history? Do we think our population is not growing? Why put this on a tiny island? Do you want your grandchildren to say ‘Hey Grandpa, didn’t you hear about global warming?’ Why is this being shoved through? Who benefits from this? Hold on here!”

Opponents say the city wants to put a giant toilet in its front yard and chop down all the trees

Opponents say the city wants to put a giant toilet in its front yard and chop down all the trees

Peirce Island


  1. katherine prien

    We need to stop them from building a larger sewer treatment plant on Pierce Island. There is no place left on the river for people to go. It should be moved to pease! I think we have polluted the river enough.I`ve lived here 60 yrs and there`s not much left. Portsmouth is out of control.


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