As Plum Island’s fate continues to be discussed and debated, a new piece of joint legislation that would bar the sale of the island without conditions is entering the picture.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced Senate legislation last week. If approved, The Plum Island Conservation Act would repeal laws passed in 2009 and 2012 that initiated federal efforts to sell the island to the highest bidder.
Last month, the House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) also seeking to block the island’s sale. The measure, which has been moved to the Senate, requires a study to be done on how best to conserve the island — which is in Gardiners Bay in the Town of Southold — and come up with alternatives to a sale while suspending any sales activity of the island while the study is completed.
The latest legislation would directly repeal the current law mandating the island’s sale and would take the land sale off the table without requiring such a study.
Groups opposing the sale welcomed the new legislation.
“If successful, this legislation will not only protect one of the nation’s most precious natural assets but reaffirm the tremendous value of bi-state congressional partnership when it comes to the future of the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay Estuaries,” said Bob DeLuca, president of the environmental nonprofit Group for the East End.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said her Farmingdale-based group applauds the new bill.
“[Plum Island] is a rare ecological gem in the Long Island Sound,” Esposito said. “The only way to truly ensure preservation is to repeal the federal mandate to sell the Island.”
Zeldin spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena said Friday that the congressman’s office “supported all efforts aimed at preserving Plum Island and will continue to push for bipartisan cooperation between the House and Senate to get this done.”
In a statement issued Friday, Gillibrand said she strongly supports keeping Plum Island as a federal property and protecting it as a wildlife refuge. She called the island “an important habitat for migratory birds and endangered species and it should continue to be owned by the public.”
Schumer said Monday that the Senate should pass the bill because “it would be a mistake and lost opportunity to rip apart this unique 840-acre environmental setting, destroying the habitat of the endangered species that live there.”
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Friday that he felt both legislative acts were “a good thing” in that having options creates more routes for the town to prevent the island’s sale.
“It’s a sweet problem to have when you talk about which bill is ultimately adopted,” Russell said. “It means Southold has options, and both will achieve our goals.”