Bishop proposes fix for Plum Island sale

Congressman Tim Bishop held a press conference in Orient this morning to announce he's introducing legislation to keep Plum Island from being auctioned off.
Congressman Tim Bishop held a press conference in Orient this morning to announce he’s introducing legislation to keep Plum Island from being auctioned off.

When the U.S. Congress decided in September of 2008 to build a new agricultural research laboratory in Kansas to replace the one at Plum Island, Congress also mandated that Plum Island be sold.

Now, just weeks after the feds released their final environmental report readying the island for sale, Congressman Tim Bishop and several other members of Congress are going back to the root of the issue: they’re introducing legislation this afternoon that would overturn the provision that requires the island be sold.

Mr. Bishop joined environmental leaders in the blazing heat this morning at the Cross Sound Ferry dock at Orient Point, with Plum Island visible in the distance, to announce that he’ll be introducing the legislation when he returned to Washington this afternoon.

Environmentalists on Long Island and in Connecticut have long argued that the island should become a wildlife preserve, protecting more than 200 species of birds, seals, a productive fishery and unique plant life from the potential of development that could include as many as 500 condominiums, though no developer has come forward and said they want to build there.

The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Congressmen Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Michael Grimm of New York. Mr. Bishop said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is planning to introduce a companion bill in the senate. He added that New York’s senators are also in support of the proposal.

He said the bill will not impact the construction of the Kansas lab, but it “would allow what I think is a bad idea to go forward without any impact on Plum Island.”

Mr. Bishop said that, while it makes no sense for the government to run a laboratory to conduct research on cow diseases in the middle of cattle country, the government should not “complicate a bad idea by a worse idea” of selling Plum Island.

Mr. Bishop added that Southold Town’s proposed zoning for Plum Island, “is the very best thing we have going for us for preserving Plum Island in its current state.

Southold’s zoning, which would only allow a research facility and wildlife preserve on the 840 acre island, is expected to be approved later this summer.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, who was also at the press conference, said “I assure you it will not make fiscal sense” for anyone to develop Plum Island after the zoning is established.”

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, perhaps best summed up the importance of preserving Plum Island.

“What’s next? Ellis Island?” she said. “We won’t do that…we value the necessity of preserving historic assets. They protect the past. Environmental assets protect the future.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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