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U.S. Spending Bill Could Block Sale Of Plum Island

In this Oct. 6, 2010 file photo, people on a tour of Plum Island, N.Y., off the coast of Long Island, watch seals relaxing on the rocky shore.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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In this Oct. 6, 2010 file photo, people on a tour of Plum Island, N.Y., off the coast of Long Island, watch seals relaxing on the rocky shore.

The mandated sale of Plum Island — positioned off eastern Long Island between New York and Connecticut — could be permanently blocked with the adoption of the 2021 federal spending bill.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced this week that a provision in the bill prevents the sale to the highest bidder by the federal government. The 2021 spending legislation also includes $18.9 million to start the cleanup of the federally owned island.

In 2008, Congress passed an appropriations bill that closed the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and required the sale of the island.

“The current law, which mandates the sale of the island to the highest bidder, is the wrong path forward,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who pushed the spending plan through the House. “It’s an honor to deliver this huge win that will reverse that law and help preserve Plum Island’s rich history and tap into its limitless potential for generations to come.”

The 840-acre island is home to 227 bird species, several endangered species, and a seal population. Besides its ecological diversity, the island houses the historically significant Fort Terry and Plum Island lighthouse.

“This is a true win for Long Island, the environment, its rich history, and the communities and advocates who were so rightfully worried about what might happen next — now they will help decide the future,” Schumer said in a statement.

Local activists and environmentalists would like to see the island become a nature preserve with limited public access.

The spending bill must pass by the end of the day Friday.