Congressman Tim Bishop (D- Southampton) Tuesday announced the introduction of “Save, don’t sell Plum Island,” a bill designed to overturn the 2008 congressional mandate for the federal government to sell the island, for decades the home of an animal disease research laboratory, at public auction.
The bipartisan legislation would help prevent non-research development on the 840-acre island, preserving what Mr. Bishop called a biodiversity “treasure.”
The federal General Services Administration recently released an environmental impact statement supporting construction of up to 500 dwellings on the island, which in addition to animal disease center is home to an abandoned military installation.
The congressman was joined at a morning press conference on the beach in Orient by state Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and representatives of several environmental groups, including the Group for the East End, the Nature Conservancy and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
Connecticut Democratic Congressmen Joe Courtney and Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, have signed on as cosponsors. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
Its purpose is to reverse the 2008 bill requiring the island’s sale to help finance a new $1.2 billion animal disease research center in Manhattan, Kan.
Mr. Bishop’s bill contends cleanup costs from past island activities, including the operation of Fort Terry, a WWI-era Army base, coupled with Southold’s pending island zoning prohibiting new development, would dramatically reduce the island’s commercial value.
Mr. Bishop said the Kansas research facility would “duplicate many of the research functions currently served well by other research facilities, including Plum Island,” and would be unaffordable given the nation’s budget constraints.
According to Mr. Bishop’s bill, the Plum Island facility has been well maintained.
He added that more than $23 million in federal funds have been invested in laboratory upgrades since January 2012, with additional significant expenditures likely in the future.
“If the federal government did not already own Plum Island, it would be seeking to purchase it for conservation,” Mr. Bishop said.