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Plum Island report prompts criticism

Plum Island is seen in this undated aerial

Plum Island is seen in this undated aerial file photo. Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON — A much-anticipated federal report on Plum Island released Tuesday was panned by environmentalists as superficial and disappointing because it failed to make concrete recommendations on how to use the East End island after its animal disease center closes.

But the senators who required the U.S. Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies to prepare the report called it proof that the 2008 law requiring Plum Island’s commercial sale is a mistake and should be reversed.

“The report is incomplete and lacks meaningful data, superficial in its analysis, does not adequately assess the potential of alternatives to the sale of the island and, most importantly, doesn’t comply with the congressional directive,” said John Turner, spokesman for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, which includes more than 60 local environmental groups.

Yet Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, “This report is completely conclusive that Plum Island must be preserved and any commercial sale would mean a foolhardy sacrifice of this priceless treasure.”

Blumenthal is sponsor of a bill to reverse the 2008 law requiring Plum Island’s sale. In May, the House passed Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) measure to block the sale.

Zeldin said the report shows a sale to the highest bidder is “the wrong answer” and reinforces the need for the Senate to pass its version of his bill.

A Homeland Security representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Congress gave the Homeland Security Department, the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration six months to conduct the study.

The report reviews the required sale and alternatives, without recommending any course of action for Plum Island after 2023, when the federal facility closes.

The report said a competitive sale would reap the federal government the most revenue. It also said federal costs would be incurred for alternatives such as conveying the island to other federal agencies, state or local government, or nonprofits to use as a preserve or for negotiated sales.

It said a developer would face difficulties from federal environmental regulations and local zoning laws. But it made no case for using the island as a preserve, as Long Island and Connecticut local governments and advocacy groups have urged.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a cosponsor of Blumenthal’s bill, said in the light of the report, “my colleagues and I intend to fight even harder to prevent Plum Island from being sold to a private developer and do everything possible to preserve its unique environment and wildlife habitat.”

With Will James

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