Piscataqua River cargo ships need to learn from Baltimore bridge collapse: Letters

Portsmouth Herald

Piscataqua shipping needs to take heed of Baltimore bridge collapse

April 1 − To the Editor:

When the cargo ship Dali struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, it is likely that engineers around the world collectively cringed. Engineers do their best to make sure that machinery operates reliably and structures don’t fall down among countless other things that most people take for granted. You may not realize how long and how much effort it takes to recover from such events.

For the Seacoast, we have seen minor versions play out. Back in 2013, on April 1st, the M/V Harbour Feature broke free of its moorings and struck the Sarah Long Bridge. As far as the tragedy in Baltimore is concerned, it will be a tedious recovery that is not without additional risks. In 2005, a NH man was killed during disassembly of a bridge over the Cooper River in Charleston, SC. Use of floating cranes for salvage purposes represents risks as well, especially when lifting submerged objects. In 2002, a crane section fell into the Piscataqua River while being salvaged with a floating crane.

The average weight of a cubic foot of steel is 490 pounds. The average weight of a cubic foot of salt water is 64.1 pounds or 62.4 pounds for fresh water. That means when lifting a submerged object, and assuming it is quickly draining, it will get heavier as it is raised from the water. The floating crane will sink as the load is lifted, so lifting large weights is a slower process than when using a land based crane.

Lastly, teams of engineers, designers, steel/construction workers and others will likely be dedicating years of their lives to recover from this one single accident. If you wonder why someone would remember these past events, let me defer to the expression: you need to learn from other’s mistakes, as you don’t have time to make them all yourself. So to everyone involved in the recovery in Baltimore, thank you, good luck and please be safe.

Don Cavallaro


The MV Harbour Feature, a tanker carrying 11,000 metric tons of tallow oil broke away from the state pier and struck the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge on Monday, April 1, 2013.

Sad to see Jayne Begala leave the planning board

March 26 − To the Editor:

I am deeply disappointed to learn of Jayne Begala's resignation from the Portsmouth Planning Board.  My household has only recently switched to Comcast so I am now able to watch Planning Board meetings.  I have been very impressed with Jayne Begala's performance.  She appears to be a highly intelligent, insightful person who cares passionately about Portsmouth in every respect.  

This is what happens when our City Council treats resident volunteers disrespectfully and usurps their power, and when the City Council lacks independence from the City Management which is too cozy with developers.  

While I share Ms. Begala's concern with our city's loss of character and its ever growing number of city employees accompanied by a burdensome tax increase, I wish that she had not given up, but had stayed to fight the fight for Portsmouth residents. Ms. Begala has stated that she would like to serve our community in other ways.  Could we interest her in running for a future City Council?  

I hope that this is not the beginning of a trend of resignations by resident volunteers since our HDC members are now being treated shabbily, and some members of the Council want to take away their power, too.  This makes me fear for the future of Portsmouth's neighborhoods and for its squeezed out middle class tax base.  

Christina Lusky


Our primary rights to life and liberty outweigh 2nd Amendment

April 1 − To the Editor:

In the whole debate about gun laws that has been going on for so long, no one has pointed out the simple fact that our primary rights are the first ones written into our founding documents and therefore were clearly the most important rights to the founders. However, those rights are consistently violated by the out-of-control gun violence that is fostered and perpetuated by loose gun laws.

The first words of the Declaration of Independence are: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”The first words of the US Constitution are: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It ought to be clear, then, that the founders placed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness above all else, and that those primary rights were to be ensured by laws promoting domestic tranquility, common defense, and the general welfare. Unfortunately, current firearm laws in many states and on the federal level fly in the face of those rights, and they contribute to the obscene prevalence of firearm deaths in this country (greater than in any other country in the world except those in a state of war). Slavish adherence to a tortured interpretation of the Second Amendment is the reason this condition exists.  The first words of the Second Amendment (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”) clearly indicate that the Amendment was intended to bolster the federal government’s obligation to “…provide for the common defence…” and nothing more. No reasonable case can be made that it was intended to promote unregulated ownership of any weapon that could be conceived or invented, as is currently the case.

The Second Amendment was written after the Constitution proper, making it secondary to the primary rights noted above, and its current interpretation is in opposition to those rights. One cannot count on life, the pursuit of happiness, domestic tranquility or general welfare when one is in constant fear of being shot at places that should be — and historically have been until recently — safe, such as schools, movie theaters, supermarkets, places of worship, and dance halls.It is therefore incumbent on political leaders to recognize the primacy of justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare, and blessings of liberty by passing laws that honor those rights and reduce to the greatest extent possible the harm to those rights caused by firearms. It is also incumbent on them to NOT pass laws that fly in the face of those rights and increase the potential for harm caused by firearms.

Jim Mastro


Ayotte can either support Trump or the constitution. Not both.

April 1 -- To the Editor:

In a March 28 column clarifying her position on IVF, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte asserted that "Unlike the Democrats, I will always put the Constitution first." Yet, in a recent endorsement Ms. Ayotte said that she supports Donald Trump for president.

So which is it? Does Ayotte support the Constitution or does she support Donald Trump? These are mutually exclusive propositions, so she can't have it both ways. And, for that matter, neither can anyone else in America. The claim of "putting the Constitution first" is utterly incompatible with endorsing a vile shyster like Trump who attempted to defraud the American people by subverting the 2020 election, and then, when that fraud failed, fomented a violent insurrection against our constitutional democracy.  .

Any politician who endorses Trump should be summarily rejected by voters, because such politicians couldn't possibly be trusted to protect the Constitution under a Trump administration. This has been confirmed by the treacherous behavior of many Republican politicians leading up to the January 6 insurrection and by their past and ongoing refusal to hold Trump accountable for his anti-democratic assaults on the Constitution.

Making this choice − between the Constitution and Trump − is the fundamental political issue of our time. All other issues, whether domestic or foreign, pale in comparison to this monumental battle for the soul and essence of America. So the coming election has nothing to do with liberalism versus conservatism, or with the culture wars, or with illegal immigration, abortion rights, the economy, Biden's age or even Trump's brain-crippling egomania.

Rather, this election has everything do with maintaining the stability and strength of our democracy and ensuring the moral integrity of our elected representatives. Neither of these objectives can be entrusted to Trump or to the band of bootlicking politicians who desperately cling to his slimy coattails. These politicians hope to receive a few crumbs of power or praise from the Table of Trump in exchange for their wholesale betrayal of Truth, Democracy and the Constitution. It is truly discouraging, and almost pathetic, to see so many of our nation's political class scrounging so shamelessly for such crumbs.

For all of the above reasons (and many more) the correct choice at the ballot box in 2024 is crystal clear. Just remember that this election is not about Biden vs. Trump, it is about the Constitution vs. Trumpism. I pray the electorate will vote accordingly.

Ron Sheppe