To Block Plum Island Sale

The Plum Island Preservation Act would prevent the federal government from selling the island to the highest bidder

The United States House of Representatives last week passed the Plum Island Preservation Act, which would prevent the federal government from selling the island to the highest bidder.

Representative Lee Zeldin, whose district extends to the North and South Forks, including Plum Island, reintroduced the bill in April, following its passage in the House in May 2016. The Senate did not act after its 2016 passage, necessitating its reintroduction. It must pass in the Senate and be signed into law by the president in order to take effect. If it becomes law, it will suspend laws passed in 2008 and 2011 that mandated the island’s public sale.

The federal government has owned Plum Island since 1899. It has been used as a research laboratory since World War II, and a variety of infectious animal-borne diseases have been studied there since 1954.

The Department of Homeland Security announced in 2005 that the Animal Disease Center’s activities would be moved to the new Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility in Kansas. The cost of relocating the activities to Kansas was to be offset by the sale of the island. Elected officials including Mr. Zeldin’s predecessor, Tim Bishop, opposed that plan.

The act passed last week seeks to commission the Government Accountability Office, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, to develop a comprehensive plan for the future of the 840-acre island. The legislation requires that the plan focus on conservation, education, and research and include alternative uses for the island including a transfer of ownership to another federal agency, the state or local government, a nonprofit organization, or a combination thereof.

The bill received unanimous support from the Long Island and Connecticut House delegations and from a coalition of environmental groups.

In a statement issued on July 25, Mr. Zeldin called his opposition to the sale of Plum Island “one of my highest local priorities.” He added, “Preserving this island’s natural beauty, while maintaining a research mission, will continue to provide important economic and environmental benefits to Long Island. It will also ensure that the state-of-the-art research facility at Plum Island does not go to waste.” He said that he would continue to urge New York and Connecticut’s senators to pass the legislation in their chamber.