Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday he\’s \”disappointed but not surprised\” that a federal agency has reaffirmed its decision to sell Plum Island.
\”While a sale is not yet imminent, this latest news serves as a reminder of the critical need for federal legislation to preserve this unique, priceless natural treasure,\’\’ Blumenthal said. \”Once this pristine open space is lost to development, it can never be reclaimed.\”
Blumenthal, and U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Tim Bishop of Long Island are pushing a bill that would block the sale.
The 843-acre island in Long Island Sound is home to an animal disease research lab but the rest of the federally owned property is undeveloped. The aging research facility is slated to be replaced by a $1.2 billion animal disease research center in Manhattan, Kansas. To offset some of those costs, Congress passed a law requiring that Plum Island be sold and the proceeds be funneled into the new facility.
Late Thursday, the federal General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security issued a record of decision, which reaffirms an earlier decision to sell the island. It could ultimately be auctioned off to private developers.
But Blumenthal, Courtney and environmental groups fighting the sale say it doesn\’t make sense on fiscal or ecological grounds. The island is home to a number of rare and endangered shorebirds, as well as other wildlife.
And while the sale is expected to generate $60 million, almost all of that would be swallowed by the cost of cleaning the land of contaminants and other by-products of the island\’s long history as a military installation, those opposed to the sale said.
Blumenthal said he will \”continue to work closely and expeditiously with my Congressional colleagues and advocates in Connecticut and New York to ensure that the island’s valuable and beautiful open space remain permanently off limits to future development.”
The town is situated within the boundaries of Southold, N.Y., which has launched its own strategy for preserving the island from development. Earlier this week, officials there approved new zoning rules that would preserve most of the island as a conservation district.