U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to Protect Plum Island

Plum Island in a Department of Homeland Security aerial photo.

Just weeks after Congressman Lee Zeldin’s bill to preserve Plum Island passed the House of Representatives for the second time, U.S. Senators have finally taken up the cause in their branch of Congress.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut and Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York introduced new legislation Aug. 3 to repeal the 2009 and 2012 laws that initiated the federal effort to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder.

Similar to the House of Representatives Bill, S. 1737, The Plum Island Conservation Act, would remove language in earlier bills that required the island be sold to the highest bidder to pay for a new agrodefense lab in Manhattan, Kansas.

The removal of the sale to the highest bidder stipulation would allow conservation agencies or state and local entities to acquire and protect the land at no cost. 

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York wrote to leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee on May 30 seeking repeal of the mandate requiring the island’s sale.

In July, the House of Representatives passed legislation requiring the Government Accountability Office to study how best to conserve the island and come up with alternatives to a sale. The bill also suspends the government’s quest to sell the island while the study is completed.

The Senate version would one step further, repealing the original language requiring the sale of Plum Island. 

“We look forward to working with our congressional delegation and our allies in the coming months as we work to make this bill law,” said Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound Program Director Leah Schmalz. “Plum Island is a unique and irreplaceable gem that should not be sold to the highest bidder.”

“Once again Senators Gillibrand, Blumenthal, and Murphy have demonstrated their strong and unwavering commitment toward protecting Plum Island by introducing legislation to repeal the ill-conceived law that has the island on a path to be sold to the highest bidder,” said John Turner, Spokesperson of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC). “PPIC very much supports and appreciates their efforts and hopes they are successful in passing the measure, putting them in a position to work with Congressman Zeldin to resolve differences in the Senate bill, and the previously adopted House version, so Plum Island can finally attain the protective status it so richly deserves,” he concluded.

“We applaud the environmental leadership of our Connecticut and New York Senators in moving to put a full stop on plans to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder,” said Group for the East End President Bob Deluca. “If successful, this legislation will not only protect one of the nation’s most precious natural assets but reaffirm the tremendous value of  bi-state Congressional partnership when it comes to the future of the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay Estuaries.”

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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