What Can New York State Do To Preserve Plum Island?

 Plum Island
Plum Island

New York State wants your opinion on what the state can do to help preserve Plum Island if the federal government goes ahead with plans to sell the 840-acre home of its animal disease laboratory.

The New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation is planning a public hearing in Farmingville this month on “what steps can be taken to preserve Plum Island as open space in light of the pending sale.”

The hearing will be held in the Brookhaven Town Hall Auditorium at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville on Mon., Sept. 28 at 11 a.m.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright serves as the chairman of the Commitee on Environmental Conservation, and his office is asking anyone who would like to comment at the hearing to fill out and return the public hearing reply form, available online here.

The federal Department of Homeland Security is required to auction off the island to the highest bidder as a condition of the construction of a new bio-defence laboratory to replace Plum Island currently under construction in Manhattan, Kan.

That laboratory is expected to be in operation by 2022.

While federal lawmakers in both New York and Connecticut are looking to decouple the sale of the island from the construction of the new laboratory, New York State is looking into preservation options for the island.

Members of Save the Sound, an environmental advocacy group that is looking to preserve Plum Island, are also drafting an argument that the sale of the island may not be constant with New York State coastal zone management laws.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a letter regarding the Environmental Impact Statement on the sale of the island, said  “Plum Island is widely recognized as containing significant habitats for fish, wildlife, and plant species by Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as non-governmental agencies.”

New York has also listed Plum Island as a regional priority conservation project on the 2014 Draft New York State Open Space Conservation Plan.

The Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation is asking all who wish to speak on Sept. 28 to fully fill out the reply form and limit their oral testimony to 10 minutes. They’re also asking anyone who brings prepared testimony to provide ten copies of their testimony either at the hearing registration desk or in advance of the hearing as possible.

Committee Assistant Ashley Luz is compiling testimony, receiving requests to speak and answering questions at the address below:

Ashley Luz
Committee Assistant
Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation
Room 520 – Capitol
Albany, New York 12248
Email: luza@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4363
Fax: (518) 455-5182

Meanwhile, East End Congressman Lee Zeldin’s bill introduced April 16 to decouple the sale of Plum Island from the closure of the lab was referred to the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies on April 29 and no action has been taken on it since.

 

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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