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Plum Island laboratory's replacement in Kansas breaks ground

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is shown

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center is shown in this file photo from Feb. 16, 2004. Credit: AP

Federal officials Wednesday broke ground on a new animal and agricultural disease laboratory in Manhattan, Kansas, that will replace the facility on Plum Island -- a move Long Island lawmakers fought for years.

The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility will contain 570,000 square feet and cost $1.25 billion when complete in 2022, according to the Homeland Security Department.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the laboratory "will provide the nation with cutting-edge, state-of-the-art lab capabilities and help protect our food supply and the nation's public health."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it's been "a national priority" for federal agencies "to replace aging facilities."

The Plum Island Animal Disease Center has been in operation since 1954 and employs 400 people in its lab and facilities, according to DHS.

After Congress decided to move the facility to Kansas, it ordered in 2008 the sale of the 840-acre Plum Island to the highest bidder to recover some of the cost of building the new laboratory.

Last month, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) reintroduced a bill that would reverse that sales mandate and instead turn Plum Island into a natural preserve.

"We need to protect Plum Island from a private sale to the highest bidder, and to preserve it for conservation, research, recreation and educational purposes," Zeldin said in a statement Wednesday.

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