Commentary: Massive air cargo facility at Pease will damage Seacoast quality of life

·4 min read

What does the proposed Pease Air Cargo Facility bring to the Seacoast?

I hope the Pease Development Authority (PDA) board, as well as residents and leaders of the towns surrounding Portsmouth International Tradeport at Pease (Pease) will take time to reflect on the long-term impact of what the proposed development of a massive air cargo facility would bring to the Seacoast. Obviously, developers have had, and will have, ample opportunity to pitch all the benefits to the board and leadership staff at PDA in public and private meetings. The PDA board should also provide community residents the information to assess the significant impacts this project may cause.

Mike Lehrman
Mike Lehrman

Will the Pease Development Authority (PDA) board take time to be curious, ask questions, listen, and consider all impacts?

There are obvious benefits to developers of an air cargo terminal and also for the PDA. It would bring a sizable revenue stream to PDA from a ground lease for the facility. Based on a presentation found online, the 43-acre Lonza facility site pays almost $800,000/year to the PDA for its lease. The PDA audit for fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, indicates the PDA earns $10.5 million/year from rent revenue. Either of the proposed 400,000+/- square foot cargo facilities would bring another large revenue stream to PDA. Air cargo would also provide aircraft ramp fees, fuel flowage fees and possibly landing fees to PDA.

More: 'Significant interest': Pease airport cargo facility plan moves forward

Downsides to a massive air cargo operation?

Let's talk about noise. For air cargo operators like FedEx and UPS, a majority of their traffic happens at night. The FAA recognizes that aircraft noise at night (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) is 10 times as intrusive as day-time noise and assigns a ten-fold (10dB) penalty in its Day-Night Average Sound Level measurements. The BBC notes that research has linked noise from aircraft and road traffic to an increased risk of cardiovascular issues and considers it similar to exposure to second-hand smoke and radon.

Air cargo operators often fly bigger and older aircraft that are noisier than typical passenger planes at Pease. There are hundreds of homes in Portsmouth, Newington, Durham, and Dover impacted by aircraft noise. A few more jets taking off during the day would probably not be a big deal, but even a few planes taking off every night will wake up a lot of community members, potentially impacting their health and productivity.

Another selling point for new business development is the downstream jobs created. What other development might flow from an air cargo facility? Two likely businesses are warehouse and large distribution centers, both with more truck traffic. Would that be a collateral bonus or collateral damage for this area?

More jobs? But where are the workers and where will they live?

A selling point for any new development is bringing good paying jobs to the community. NH’s 2.6% unemployment rate in December is the sixth lowest in the nation. More jobs are good but is that the area’s biggest need? A bigger problem is likely the shortage of reasonably-priced housing, the same housing new workers might want to live in.

Surpassing the volume of Manchester Regional Airport?

How much air and ground traffic would come from an air cargo terminal? We can take an educated guess. If developers are proposing facilities on the order of 400,000 square feet (that’s more than double the size of Manchester’s facility), are they planning to at least match Manchester’s cargo volume of 200 million pounds/year? At that volume with average aircraft load of 65,000 pounds. (75% loaded Boeing-757), that is just over 3,000 flights/year. If an average 40-foot truck-load is 35,000 pounds. that is over 5,700 truck-loads/year.

But who knows the answer in five or 10 years, the sky’s the limit!

Contact the Pease Development Authority board now

Now is the time for community members to begin raising questions and concerns to the PDA board, not the day the developer’s plan comes up for final approval. Hopefully PDA board members will encourage dialogue with the community they serve. After all, they are appointed by various political leaders including Governor Sununu, President of NH Senate- Chuck Morse, Speaker of the House Sherman Packard, local towns' selectmen and the Strafford County legislative delegation. Contact PDA board at or call (603) 433-6088.

The writer is a retired health care executive who has worked in non-profit and for-profit acute and senior care organizations. He has served on several health care organization boards in N.H. He resides in Durham, N.H.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Commentary: Air cargo facility at Pease will hurt Seacoast life quality

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