New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks during an interview with The Associated Press during the National Governors Association 2019 winter meeting in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Credit: Jose Luis Magana | AP

CONCORD, New Hampshire — Several Seacoast state senators sent a letter Monday to Gov. Chris Sununu, urging him to direct New Hampshire’s attorney general to join the 16-state lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration, while simultaneously pointing to the potential diversion of $224 million in projects at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in nearby Kittery to construct a southern border wall.

Credit: Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes led the letter, also signed by Democratic Sens. Martha Fuller Clark (Portsmouth) David Watters (Dover), Jon Morgan (Brentwood) and Tom Sherman (Rye).

Maine is among the states already suing over the border wall declaration.

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The senators warned in their letter that the emergency declaration “is especially problematic for New Hampshire because the military construction funding that the president seeks to raid could dramatically affect our state’s economy.” They continued, “The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard plays a significant role in our national security as well as New Hampshire’s economy and Seacoast communities. These potentially dramatic cuts in funding would hurt both shipyard workers and the entire Seacoast region.”

Asked last week about the possible threat of funding loss for the shipyard, Sununu blamed the federal delegation for not funding the border wall in the first place. He had previously expressed support for the wall.

[Portsmouth Naval Shipyard could lose millions in funding to build Trump’s border wall]

On Monday, in a statement, Sununu said, “The federal delegation failed to come to an agreement with the president that would have ensured the continuation of funding for these important projects in the first place. They knew the risks when they took that position, and I join the people of New Hampshire in calling on them to find a funding solution that both secures our border and continues funding for these critical projects.”

Sununu did not directly address the senators’ request to join the lawsuit.

Per Trump’s Feb. 15 national emergency declaration, military construction funds allocated for fiscal year 2019 have been tapped as an avenue to fund the wall at the border with Mexico. Last week, four projects at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were named on a list released by the Department of Defense.

[Shaheen argues for Maine shipyard as Trump’s border wall threatens funding]

The New Hampshire federal delegation, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan and Congressman Chris Pappas, joined at the shipyard for a press conference Friday, where they stated diverting funds from the shipyard would compromise both the nation’s security and the Seacoast region’s stability, with the shipyard being its largest employer with the most economic impact.

The DoD’s list included the following projects at the local shipyard: $62 million for a paint, blast and rubber facility, $12 million for a warehouse, $110 million for the Dry Dock 1 superflood basin, and $40 million for an extended portal crane rail. All of the projects are expected to be awarded funding in June, July or September.

[Maine delegation rips Trump over border wall emergency declaration]

Despite the DoD advisory’s mention that it’s unlikely funds would be taken from projects that are slated to be awarded before September, the New Hampshire delegation said inclusion on the list is concern enough to sound the alarm. Shaheen, D-N.H., said, “We don’t know what the president is going to do.”

Dry dock modernization has been deemed critical by shipyard officials for the nuclear submarine overhaul facility to continue servicing the Navy and meeting future demands. The planned upgrades would allow Dry Dock 1 to accept the newer Virginia Class submarines, whereas currently, it can only accept the older Los Angeles Class subs, which will be phased out by 2029.

The senators told Sununu in their letter that joining the lawsuit “is the only effective way to ensure that these critical military construction projects in Portsmouth and around the country, as well as funds for drug interdiction efforts, are not raided.”

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The 16 states that have filed suit against Trump include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and California. The lawsuit claims Trump’s declared emergency to build the border wall violates the Constitution.

Shaheen and Hassan previously joined in passing a bipartisan resolution to block the president’s emergency declaration, that he has since vetoed. Both the House and Senate may vote this week whether or not to override Trump’s veto.