May 29, 2001: The U.S. Supreme Court delivers a decision asserting that Seavey’s Island, in the Piscataqua River and the site of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, is part of Maine, not New Hampshire, based on an ill-defined 1740 decree by Britain’s King George II.

The court dismisses a claim by New Hampshire, and it later refuses to reconsider the ruling after New Hampshire appeals.

The court disregards new information about the king’s intent and instead rules that the two states’ 1976-77 effort to determine the border’s location applies to the entire length of the river and out through the harbor.

Justice David Souter recuses himself from voting because he was involved in the issue in the 1970s as a New Hampshire assistant attorney general and later as the state’s attorney general.

The decision means, among other things, that New Hampshire residents who work at the shipyard must pay Maine income tax. Enforcement of that requirement resulted in the lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court.

New Hampshire does not have a state income tax.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com.  Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]


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