May 18, 2022

Legislator mulls N.H. land claim

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – A New Hampshire legislator’s push for a potential state claim to the Maine towns of Kittery and Berwick has prompted a Maine lawmaker to look into his state’s possible incorporation of the Portsmouth area and the Isles of Shoals.

Border battles between Maine and New Hampshire are nothing new, but the bone of contention is usually Seavey Island in Kittery, home to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Earlier this month, Rep. Henry McElroy, R-Nashua, filed a bill that asks the Legislature to investigate whether Kittery and Berwick actually belong to New Hampshire.

Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, responded by sponsoring legislation to have Maine look into incorporating Portsmouth and the entire Isles of Shoals chain.

“If we could just get a hold of that tollbooth,” he said, referring to the lucrative Hampton tolls on Interstate 95, “it would sure help us pay the bills.”

Strimling admitted that he was simply making a lighthearted response to McElroy’s bill and had no direct proof to support the idea that Portsmouth might belong to Maine.

“I read the story … and decided to fight fire with fire,” he said.

Strimling’s bill is titled “An Act to annex the greater Portsmouth metro regions and the entirety of the Isles of Shoals.” The senator said that while he doesn’t expect his bill to pass, some in the Portsmouth area could be supportive of the concept once they learn of the benefits.

New Hampshire Seacoast region residents would get “a lower meals and lodging tax and, of course, a better hockey team,” the Maine senator said.

McElroy said he had been reviewing Colonial period documents indicating that Kittery and Berwick had remained part of Massachusetts even after the establishment of Maine as a colony, then had been annexed to New Hampshire in order to enhance the state’s limited deep-water port access.

McElroy’s claims were disputed by Rep. Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, who served on the New Hampshire Boundary Commission. That group sought to determine the boundary between Maine and New Hampshire in relation to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

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