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NY, Conn. lawmakers: Block Plum Island sale

Plum Island is seen in an aerial photo

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

New York and Connecticut lawmakers have asked President Barack Obama's administration to issue an executive order, blocking the sale of Plum Island.

The federal government will not get much money from selling the 840-acre island off the tip of the North Fork, because the town of Southold zoned it to prevent residential development, wrote Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) in a letter Tuesday.

"Clearly, any revenue realized from selling Plum Island into private hands would be greatly outweighed by the loss to the American people of the island's true value as an environmental treasure," they wrote to the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

The sale is expected to come after the Plum Island Animal Disease Center closes, estimated to be in 2019. The lab studies large animal diseases and employs 400 people. A higher security animal disease lab, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), is being built in Kansas.

Plum Island's sale to the highest bidder was originally meant to pay for the new lab. But the Kansas lab's estimated cost has doubled to $1.2 billion.

"Given the zoning restrictions now in place, it is clear that selling Plum Island would do virtually nothing to offset the cost," the letter said.

Environmentalists say the land has become important wildlife habitat and should be preserved. The Government Services Administration, which is selling the land, said the law requires the sale, though other federal agencies and environmentalists have disputed that interpretation.

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