A New Hampshire Treatment Facility Provides a Great Location to Invite Nesting Ospreys

A major wastewater treatment plant upgrade created an opening to install a long-desired osprey nest platform in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

A New Hampshire Treatment Facility Provides a Great Location to Invite Nesting Ospreys

The completed osprey nesting platform mounted on the top of an abandoned power pole and waiting for a nester near the Peirce Island Wastewater Treatment Facility.

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A $92 million upgrade at the Peirce Island Wastewater Treatment Facility has created an ideal location for Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Public Works to install an osprey nesting platform.

Part of the upgrade converted the plant’s overhead electrical service on the south side of Peirce Island to an underground service on the north side. “That made several utility poles available,” says Terry Desmarais, city engineer. “We saw a good opportunity to locate the platform on one of them and help minimize the overall impact on the island.”

Great location

Portsmouth had been looking for a home for the nesting platform ever since it received a $1,500 grant in 2011 from Northeast Utilities (now Eversource) under its Environmental Community Grant Program. “It took awhile to find an ideal location, but the thought was that it might get used because of its location near the river, which is a natural fishing ground for osprey and eagles,” says Peter Britz, the city’s environmental planner and sustainability coordinator.

Many locations were considered over the years, including the nearby Great Bog Wildlife Management Area. Covering nearly 360 acres of protected and conserved land, the area contains 167 acres of freshwater wetland that is home to deer, turkeys, woodcocks and songbirds. “The Peirce Island plant location was a better choice because we didn’t need to install a pole, and the heavy equipment required for the installation was already on site,” Britz says.

Visible to birders

The 40-inch square platform was built by Steve Miller, coastal training program coordinator for the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. He used pressure-treated wood for most of the construction. A welded wire-mesh screen is attached to the floor. The 5.5-inch-tall sides are joined with stainless steel screws. Carriage bolts secure the structural supports of the platform to the power pole.

Miller likes the location because once the construction at the plant is done, there will be minimal traffic to interfere with potential nesters. “The other neat thing is that the nest will be highly visible from a major causeway that is about 200 yards away and meanders along the other shoreline of the river,” Miller says. 

primary treatment facility (4.8 mgd design) to a tertiary plant with nitrogen >span class="s4">removal. A biological aerated filter system will treat a design flow of 6.1 mgd in occu>span class="s3">pies nearly 4 acres at one end of the highly forested 27-acre Peirce Island. Single-point access to the historic island is over a 300-foot-long, two-lane bridge.

Part of a community

The rest of the island is a community playground of features such as a large, heavily used outdoor swimming pool, a marina and boat launch, an off-leash dog walking area, covered picnic areas with grills, and a covered pavilion for group functions. Four miles of hiking trails meander through the island. It includes a 6-foot-wide brick walking path that passes five wooden-decked sightseeing overlooks and historical markers.

“During permitting for the plant upgrade, archeologists worked on the site to assess the historical significance of the area,” Desmarais says. One marker sits at the high point on the island and identifies it as the site of Fort Washington, named for Gen. George Washington. The fort played a part in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 but is now fenced off and protected.

Britz observes, “We are grateful that we were able to apply a grant toward the platform and look forward to working on revitalizing Peirce Island’s recreation trails as the new plant is completed.”   


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