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Halt Plum Island sale, say lawmakers

Plum Island is seen in an aerial photo

Plum Island is seen in an aerial photo on May 20, 2010. Credit: Doug Kuntz

Lawmakers from New York and Connecticut have asked congressional leaders to halt the sale of Plum Island, the spit of land off Orient Point that houses a U.S. Homeland Security Department laboratory.

Congress voted in 2008 to replace the high-security livestock disease lab on Plum Island with a new facility in Manhattan, Kansas. Federal law requires the government to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder to help offset the cost of the new lab.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) were the lead authors of a June 30 letter urging leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees to allow the government to keep and preserve the 840-acre island.

The letter, signed by 13 lawmakers from the two states, said the estimated $33 million value of Plum Island "pales in comparison to the overall cost of the state-of-the-art Kansas facility," estimated at $1 billion.

The lawmakers asked that the federal government transfer the island to the National Park Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"As members from the Long Island Sound region, we remain deeply concerned about the effects of a possible forced sale and development of the island on the landscape and ecological value of the area," the lawmakers said.

They offered to help the federal government identify a "private partnership" to help pay to maintain Plum Island, which they said will require extensive remediation. The island also houses old military installations.

Last year, Southold Town passed a strict zoning law that sought to prevent intense development on the island, much of which remains vacant and in its natural state.

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