It's a famous little island off of Long Island, full of undeveloped freshwater marshes and clean, untouched beaches with perhaps better striped bass fishing than anywhere else on the east coast.
As of right now, it's property of the federal government and home to an animal disease research lab. But, the wheels are starting to turn in moving that facility to a new one in Kansas, and selling the prime piece of real estate.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
"It would be a terrible insult to the millions of people who live within an hour's drive of the (Long Island) Sound for this to be developed as a playground for the few, as opposed to making it a managed and loved place for the many," said Curt Johnson, program director of a group called Save the Sound.
He said the island has been identified as an exemplary site for fish and wildlife. Great Gull Island and Little Gull Island, both nearby, combined with Plum Island have a large population of nesting roseate terns, an endangered species, he added.
"This is an incredible snapshot of what Long Island Sound looked like hundreds of years ago," Sandy Breslin, director of governmental affairs for Audubon Connecticut, said as she watched seals resting on rocks.
The General Services Administration, which is responsible for selling the island, is compiling a draft environmental impact statement, a preliminary step for any sale. Expected last month, the statement has been delayed until late November or early December to allow input from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Fish&Wildlife Service, GSA spokeswoman Paula Santangelo said.
Documents, some obtained this year by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Law, reveal that hundreds of tons of medical waste, contaminated soil and other refuse have been shipped off the island. Other island sites have been cleaned in compliance with federal regulations.
And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined in 2006 that no munitions or ordnance remain from the Army base. As late as 2007, New York government inspection reports said there is no environmental threat on the island.
Despite talk of selling Plum Island, officials said a new lab in Manhattan, Kan., is not scheduled to open until 2018. Still pending is a congressional risk assessment of Homeland Security's decision to move the animal disease lab there; some lawmakers question the wisdom of studying dangerous pathogens in the so-called Beef Belt. DHS has determined that an accidental release of foot-and-mouth disease would have a $4.2 billion impact on the economy, regardless of the lab's location.
Alan Schnurman, a real estate developer in the Hamptons on Long Island's east end, said he has heard estimates that Plum Island could fetch as much as $50 million.
"As a high-end real estate project, whether it's developed as a resort or for high-end individual homes, Plum Island is very appealing to a certain segment of the population," Schnurman said. "They should develop the area where the lab is located and set aside the rest for environmental purposes."
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