Portsmouth Secures 107-acre Conservation Easement to Protect Bellamy Reservoir Water Supply

January 12, 2021

Taking another significant step in its effort to protect the City of Portsmouth’s surface water supply by conserving lands surrounding the Bellamy Reservoir, the City’s Department of Public Works Water Division has partnered with Southeast Land Trust (SELT) to purchase a conservation easement on approximately 107 acres owned by Mary Ellen Duffy, adjacent to the Reservoir. The transaction closed on December 29, 2020.

This acquisition complements the conservation easement secured in 2018 on 72 acres of property owned by David Olson, also adjacent to the Bellamy Reservoir in Madbury. Both easements were obtained through the combined efforts of the City, SELT and the Town of Madbury to coordinate due diligence activities and prepare the easement documents. With their help, the City applied for and received a $287,000 grant from the New Hampshire Groundwater and Drinking Water Trust Fund and approximately $11,500 from the Great Bay Resource Protection Partnership. The Portsmouth City Council authorized the use of $287,300 from the City’s Water Enterprise Fund to complete the purchase of the Duffy easement.

The protection of the Bellamy Reservoir is a high priority for the City of Portsmouth because the Reservoir is the primary supply of the fresh water treated at the City’s Madbury Water Treatment Facility and delivered to regional communities around the seacoast. Conserving land that surrounds or includes wetlands, rivers, streams and larger bodies of water like the Reservoir  protects water resources from the pressures of development and helps the municipal water system provide quality drinking water.

“As a result of Mary Ellen Duffy’s desire to protect her property from development forever, and the City Council’s support, the City has protected Bellamy water quality through this conservation easement,” said Al Pratt, Water Resource Manager for the City of Portsmouth. “SELT greatly assisted the City through this transaction. The conservation easement on Ms. Duffy’s property is another important step toward the continued long-term protection of the Bellamy Reservoir and the quality of the drinking water supply for Portsmouth and the other communities served by the Portsmouth Water Division.”

The City Water Division Bellamy Reservoir Source Protection Plan has identified fifteen key parcels in the Bellamy watershed for protection. Each was ranked by the City on the basis of parcel size, percent wetlands, development potential, slope, length of shoreline, proximity to water supply intake and aesthetics. The Duffy property ranked as the second most- valuable parcel.

“This ranking approach is intended to assist with the prioritization of protection efforts as they pertain to the land surrounding the reservoir,” said Brian Goetz, Deputy Director of the Portsmouth Department of Public Works. “When land is not conserved, development has the potential to greatly affect surface water quality through runoff, septic system leaching, stormwater sediment loading and an increased likelihood of harmful algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen concentrations. So, efforts to protect land that has the greatest potential to impact water quality, such as Ms. Duffy’s property, are important for the long-term management of the Portsmouth water supply.”

CAPTION: Conservation of the Duffy Property Easement adjacent to the Bellamy Reservoir helps protect the drinking water supply for Portsmouth and the other communities served by the Portsmouth Water Division.

Duffy Easement in Bellamy Reservoir watershed