Today, in a letter to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the Connecticut Delegation urged the U.S. General Services Administration to consider all of the environmental issues regarding the future sale of Plum Island. The delegation wrote the letter in response to GSA's Plum Island Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and released it an hour before a public hearing was held on the federal agency's DEIS.
The delegation wrote, "As the Members from the Long Island Sound region, we greatly appreciate the Government Services Administration's (GSA) and the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) diligent review of the significant and sensitive environmental aspects of Plum Island and the impact of various development scenarios should Plum Island be sold. We are pleased that in proceeding towards the sale of Plum Island pursuant to the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009 (P.L. 110-329), GSA has chosen to conduct a study and has drafted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that accurately acknowledges many moderate to major impacts development would have on the unique ecosystem present on Plum Island. To ensure that sensitive lands are appropriately protected in any sale, however, we believe that the EIS should more clearly delineate the areas of the island that would remain protected from further development and indicate the specific federal laws and regulations that would provide such protections, and that any sale should be expressly conditioned on compliance with such laws and regulations."
"The environmental importance of Plum Island cannot be overstated. The draft EIS documents the vast number of species that may be impacted by the development scenarios, including at least two endangered species -- the piping plover and the roseate tern. In addition, development on Plum Island may affect the endangered Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle and 3 other New York State listed endangered or threatened species," the delegation continued. "We recognize that GSA, in selling Plum Island, does not have the authority to impose its own conservation and environmental restrictions beyond those protections otherwise provided for in law. Nonetheless, we believe that GSA can play an important role in protecting the significant environmental and historical aspects of Plum Island by providing clearer information on critical existing protections and by expressly requiring that any purchases abide by such restrictions, and urge that GSA do so. Such action would be fully consistent with the Congress's authorization of the sale of Plum Island "subject to such terms and conditions as necessary to protect government interests."
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security proposed selling Plum Island as part of relocating the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The 840-acre Plum Island and adjacent Great Gull and Little Gull Islands were identified for protection in 2006 by the Long Island Sound Stewardship Initiative; this initiative was created by the federal Long Island Sound Stewardship Act, endorsed by the Long Island Sound Study Management Committee and adopted and signed by the Policy Committee of the Long Island Sound Study, made up of the Regional Administrators of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regions I & II, the Commissioners of the New York Department of Conservation, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The Stewardship Initiative chose 33 of the Sound's last great coastal places to be inaugural sites -- Plum, Great Gull, and Little Gull Islands were included based on their "exemplary" ecological value.