Congressman Tim Bishop and other federal lawmakers wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently to urge Johnson to abandon plans for a new animal disease center in Kansas—and keep the Plum Island Animal Disease Center operational.
Bishop and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand say that construction of a new facility would unnecessarily expend tax dollars and the massive new facility would duplicate many of the research functions currently served by existing facilities like Plum Island.
Bishop’s office explains that Congress passed legislation in 2008 mandating the sale of Plum Island, with the proceeds intended to partially offset the $1.2 billion cost of the proposed National Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility in Kansas. Bishop has introduced legislation to remove the mandate to sell the island and to decouple the future of Plum Island from the Kansas facility.
“Closing the facility at Plum Island in favor of the research conducted there being relocated to Kansas is a plan that does not make fiscal sense,” Bishop says. “The costs of constructing the new NBAF facility have skyrocketed to more than double the original estimate and the zoning regulations put in place by the Town of Southold have made it highly unlikely that the costs would be recouped by the sale of Plum Island. Additionally, the closure of the facility could lead to the loss of jobs. The math just doesn’t add up.”
Bishop’s office says critics have also pointed out that the Kansas location would be vulnerable and its proximity to the nation’s breadbasket puts agriculture at unnecessary risk.
“Relocating our country’s disease research facility smack in the middle of tornado alley makes little sense” Schumer says. “The facility should not be closed, the island should not be sold, and Long Island jobs should not be lost. Plum Island is a leader in our nation’s effort to keep our livestock safe and disease-free, and it should continue its work protecting American livestock indefinitely.”
“There is no reason to close Plum Island,” Gillibrand adds. “The biological and agricultural research currently conducted here is a critical national asset that is essential to protect our nation’s agricultural resources and our security.”
If the island were to be sold, it would happen no sooner than 2020.