Plum Island is seen in an aerial photo on May...

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

New York and Connecticut lawmakers have called on leaders of both states to back efforts to preserve Plum Island as a wildlife refuge.

Meeting with environmental activists in Port Jefferson last week at the Bi-State Long Island Sound Roundtable, about a dozen elected officials from the two states said they oppose the federal government's plan to sell the island after the expected closure of a disease-research lab there in 2019.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which organized the gathering, said participants feared a sale of the island could lead to development of homes that would discharge waste into the Sound. The group wants New York and Connecticut lawmakers to sign a letter calling for a nature center on the island.

"This way, there would be public access, there would be tourism, but also preservation," she said. "Preserving it preserves wetlands [and] . . . habitat."

The Town of Southold, which includes Plum Island, has adopted new zoning preserving most of the island as a conservation district. Research facilities would be allowed on 135 acres of the 840-acre island, Supervisor Scott Russell said Friday.

The roundtable's proposal is "not incompatible" with the town's plan, he said. "Our zoning reflects most of what that group might have concluded."

The Plum Island proposal was one of four initiatives backed by roundtable participants. The group also called for tougher laws governing disposal of pharmaceutical drugs and an updated action plan for Sound restoration.

Esposito said participants narrowly approved a resolution calling on New York to consider restricting the use of methoprene to control mosquitoes. The larvicide, believed to harm lobsters in the Sound, is banned in Connecticut, Esposito said.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who took part in the roundtable, said it was unclear whether state lawmakers would back a methoprene ban. He said the insecticide is allowed in Connecticut during public health emergencies.

"I have an open mind, but I haven't made a decision," LaValle said in an interview. "This is truly about balancing the equities of how you deal with this."

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