With the sale of Plum Island still on the table, a committee comprised of over three dozen organizations in Connecticut and New York released a statement this week criticizing a draft environmental impact statement from the U.S. General Services Administration, saying the analysis failed to consider a partial conservation sale of Plum Island – one of 33 federally designated stewardship sites – and is flawed on many other fronts.
“Our interest in Plum Island is in assuring the conservation of approximately 750 acres of undeveloped habitat on the island as well as the safe re-use of the developed portions of the island,” wrote Georgia Basso, with the Citizen Advisory Committee of the Long Island Sound Study. Basso serves as co-chair of the Long Island Sound Study’s stewardship work group.
“We conclude that the DEIS is inadequate because it: (1) fails to protect a core governmental and public interest – conserving the exemplary habitat that forms a core of a federally designated Long Island Sound Stewardship site; (2) is deficient in assessing the island’s natural resources, and (3) fails to accurately assess the contamination and potential health risks posed by the previous uses of the island including the animal disease research facility.”
Since Congress first approved the sale of the site in 2008 with the stipulation that a new site for Plum Island's aging animal disease research center would be found, the GSA has been preparing the draft environmental impact statement. A site near Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., was identified as a possible location for a new $1.4 billion lab in 2009.
But the project is yet to be funded, and Southold Town is zoning the land for the eventual sale, the proceeds of which, in theory, would be required to help pay for the Kansas facility. Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell told Patch last week that he was against any kind of new development on the island and is pushing to use the existing infrastructure as a research and education facility. Draft zoning proposed by Southold town planners last week suggested conserving at least 600 acres on Plum Island.
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The GSA is holding a presentation at the Greenport High School auditorium Thursday night at 6 p.m. on the draft environmental impact statement, which explores possible options — including high-density development — in the sale of the largely undeveloped 840-acre Plum Island. The island has hosted the Animal Disease Research Facility since 1954 and is a haven to dozens of rare bird and plant species, most notably the federally endangered roseate tern, the state-threatened common tern and the osprey, a state species of special concern.
But members of the Citizens Advisory Committee, made up of 39 organizations in Connecticut and New York, said the “GSA either has not considered or has not been given all the available information regarding the ecological significance of Plum Island and the sale’s potential impact on public health.”
“It is imperative that the DEIS proceed only after having received the best available scientific information,” wrote Basso in the statement.
See attached PDF for more comments from the Long Island Sound Study Committee.
A presentation and public hearing on the GSA’s draft environmental impact statement takes place Thursday at 6 p.m. at Greenport School.