Good Morning
Good Morning

Lawmakers must join forces to preserve Plum Island

A Sept. 17, 2011, aerial photo of Plum

A Sept. 17, 2011, aerial photo of Plum Island shows the research facility and ferry dock. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Our two main political parties agree on almost nothing. So it’s good to see that Long Island’s federal representatives from both sides are united on at least one thing — the need to preserve Plum Island.

But instead of working with each other to achieve that, they have written separate bills to stop the largely undeveloped 834-acre island from being sold to the highest bidder. The revenue, a comparative pittance, is meant to offset the cost of the $1.2 billion animal and agricultural disease facility being built in Kansas to replace Plum Island’s lab.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) got a bill through the House of Representatives last month that would suspend the sale while a study is done on alternatives for the island’s future, including conservation. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and their Connecticut colleagues, all Democrats, are pushing legislation to repeal the law mandating the sale of Plum Island and begin the process of transferring jurisdiction of it from the Department of Homeland Security to an agency better suited to oversee its preservation. Looming over each plan is the likelihood that a substantial environmental cleanup will be required.

We prefer the Senate version because it’s a cleaner, faster way to stop the sale. But neither bill will succeed without bipartisan support. The good news is that Schumer and Zeldin, in particular, seem open to cooperating. So start talking.

Plum Island is an environmental treasure of amazing beauty. It has a rich history, and is home to endangered and threatened species and Long Island’s largest seal colony. If that’s not worth working together to preserve, what is?