Plum Island (New York)
|Native name: Manittuwond|
|Area||840 acres (340 ha)|
|Length||3 mi (5 km)|
|Width||1 mi (2 km)|
Plum Island is an island in the Town of Southold in Suffolk County, New York in the United States. The Island is situated in Gardiners Bay, east of Orient Point, off the eastern end of the North Fork coast of Long Island. It is about 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1-mile (1.6 km) wide at its widest point.
The Island is the site of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) which was established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1954. The Island is also the site of the former U.S. military installation Fort Terry (c. 1897), and the historic Plum Island Light (c. 1827), and its automated replacement.
Plum Island is owned in its entirety by the United States Government, which was considering sale of the Island as part of a debt-reduction package, but suspended the plan in February 2012. Access to the island is controlled by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
On August 29, 2013, the United States General Services Administration (GSA) and United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a final "Record of Decision (ROD): Public Sale of Plum Island, New York".
The northern portion of Plum Island is a recessional moraine deposit, and is part of the Harbor Hill-Roanoke Point-Fishers Island-Charlestown Moraine, thus is one of the Outer Lands. Boulders in the moraine can be seen in the eroding northern slope of the island.
Plum Island was called "Manittuwond" by the Native American Pequot Nation. Plum Island was probably first seen by Europeans in 1614 when Adriaen Block, a Dutchman employed by the Dutch West India Company, charted the area. The Island was named from the beach plums that grow along the shores, and an old Dutch map made about 1640 shows the name “Pruym Eyelant” (Plum Island). In 1659, the Island was purchased by Samuel Wyllys III (Samuel Willis III), son of the Governor of Connecticut, from Wyandanch, the ruling local Indian Chieftain of Long Island, for a coat, a barrel of biscuits and 100 fishhooks.
On August 11, 1775, General David Wooster dispatched 120 soldiers to the island, then known as Plumb Island, who were immediately fired upon by the British. After firing a single return volley the soldiers retreated back to Long Island. Although no casualties were reported, this brief skirmish is believed to have represented at least one American military first, the first amphibious assault by an American army.
The historic Plum Island Lighthouse is located at the west end of the island. The first lighthouse on Plum Island was constructed in 1827 and subsequently rebuilt. The light marks the east side of "Plum Gut", a mile-wide entrance to Long Island Sound with extremely strong tidal currents. The light aided navigation near the entrance to Long Island Sound, especially through the "Plum Gut" channel between Orient Point and Plum Island.
After passing through the possession of more than twenty families, in 1899, the Island was purchased in its entirety by the United States Government, following the Spanish American War, for approximately $90,000. The U.S. Army established a Coast Artillery post, later known as Fort Terry, on the Island, in 1897. During World War II the Fort was activated as an anti-submarine base and deactivated after World War II. The Fort was later reactivated and assigned to the Army Chemical Corps.
In 1954 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). The Center conducts research on animal pathogens to protect farmers, ranchers, and the national food supply. Because of the nature of the research, access to the Island and the research facility is restricted.
In 2003, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took ownership of the Island and facilities. The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) continues in operation on the Island.
As one result of the heightened national security initiatives following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, Plum Island was considered as a potential site for a new high-security animal disease lab, National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). In September 2008, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 110-329 (Sec. 540 - New York) that directed the General Services Administration (GSA) to close the PIADC, sell the Island to the public, and to use the proceeds towards the construction of the NBAF, if it were decided that NBAF would be built elsewhere. In January 2009, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) selected the City of Manhattan, Kansas, as the site for the NBAF, and decided to relocate the PIADC there as well. However, the decline in real estate values stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis and late-2000s recession caused the sale of the Island to be considered no longer viable. Because the proceeds from selling the Island were needed to construct the new facility in Kansas, the project was effectively cancelled for the short term when the 2013 federal budget request contained no funding for the new facility.
Since about 2011, the United States Government has been preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Island, one objective of which is to determine whether the impact of nearly sixty years of animal testing on the Island constitutes a threat to public health that could preclude the planned sale. The government has not performed a formal appraisal of the Island as of yet. The value of an Island of this size and location was estimated to be in the fifty to eighty million dollar range; however, due to the requirement for an extensive environmental cleanup, the stigma of being a former site of a disease lab, and potential land use restrictions, opponents of the sale expressed skepticism that the sale of the Island could generate any profit at all, let alone be able to finance the construction of NBAF.
Book Documenting History
In June 2012 the Southold Historical Society announced that it planned to publish a detailed history of the Island from the period of colonial settlement through modern times. The book, according to the Society, will correct a number of errors and mistakes in previous historical examinations and provide the first complete, annotated history of the Island to date. The Society has stated further that it is currently looking for original documents and images relating to the historic structures and families that once occupied Plum Island.
The Southold Historical Society announced the publication of its nearly 400 page book "A World Unto Itself: The Remarkable History of Plum Island, New York" documenting the history of the island from its creation to the present day in September of 2014. Among the topics covered is the island's use by British forces during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, its use as a place of recreation during the "Leisure Age," as well as serving as the location of the 1914 court martial of Benjamin M. Koehler, whose conviction on charges of homosexuality eventually led to the policy of Don't ask, don't tell. The Society noted in its press release regarding the release of the book:
"Through its many incarnations, Plum Island has managed to remain in a semi-natural state. Today, it provides a rare glimpse of what Long Island and much of the Northeast was like before it was gripped by progress. At the same time, it bears the marks of the human history that has unfolded there: the lighthouse tended by so many stalwarts; the narrow roads, rusted railroad tracks and overgrown artillery batteries once filled with soldiers who never saw combat; and, of course, the modern-day facility where the daily pursuit of science both moves us forward and pushes us away."
In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed, and U.S. President George W. Bush signed Public Law 110-329 (Sec. 540 - New York), part of the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations Act. This legislation started the process that may ultimately end with the Federal Government’s sale of all of Plum Island to a private party.
In response to the passage of Public Law 110-329 (Sec. 540 - New York), a broad-based coalition of conservation, environmental and civic organizations, and others, formed the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC), for the common purpose of protecting Plum Island for the public trust. The PPIC advocate that Plum Island be considered for designation as a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) or other protected area. The Proposal of the PPIC, notes that in recent decades the Federal Government has established a number of NWRs in the eastern Peconic/southern New England region. These NWRs include: Nomans Land Island, off the coast of Massachusetts; Block Island, Sachuest Point, John H. Chafee, Trustom Pond, and Ninigret, in coastal Rhode Island; the ten units of Stuart B. McKinney stretching along the Connecticut coastline; and Elizabeth A. Morton, in Sag Harbor, New York.
On July 16, 2013, U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop (First Congressional District of New York) announced the introduction of his new bipartisan bill ('Save, Don't Sell Plum Island'). This goal of this bill is to preserve critical biodiversity, and prevent further development, on Plum Island, by eliminating the current requirement in law that all of Plum Island be sold at public auction as part of the construction of the new planned National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) facility to be built in Manhattan, Kansas, to replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) on Plum Island. Similar legislation was also introduced in the U.S. Senate at the same time as that in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On August 29, 2013, the USDA and DHS announced a final Record of Decision (ROD) which determined that the entirety of Plum Island be sold to the private sector to help offset the cost of constructing a new facility for the PIADC in Manhattan, Kansas.
On September 30, 2013, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo wrote a letter to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and United States General Services Administration (GSA), calling for both agencies to submit to a consent order requiring them to present a comprehensive environmental cleanup plan for Plum Island, in Suffolk County, New York, and giving New York State final review of the Island’s conditions before it is put up for sale.
In popular culture
- The 1988 novel The Silence of the Lambs by author Thomas Harris mentions "Plum Island" as a potential supervised vacation site for Hannibal Lecter as a reward for helping to catch Jame Gumb. He derisively refers to it as "Anthrax Island".
- Plum Island is a 1997 novel by Long Island, New York author Nelson DeMille, who uses the Island as one of his settings in the book.
- The 2004 book Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory by Michael Carroll, Ph.D., examines the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC).
- Plum Island is the title and focus of one episode of the television series Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. The episode was originally broadcast on Oct. 15, 2010, in Season Two.
- Plum Island is theorized by some to be the origin of the monster in the 2008 movie Cloverfield.
- Plum Island is referred to in Season 4, Episode 4, "Dawn of the Med", of the show "Royal Pains".
- Plum Island is the location of a deadly government conspiracy in the 2014 novel, The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea.
- Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) - Building 101
- Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) - Building 257
- Gerges, David (30 September 2011). "'Beautiful views and harbour... in need of bit of biohazard work': Government tries to sell $80m animal disease island to pay off its debts". Daily Mail.
- http://therealdeal.com/blog/2012/02/22/50m-sale-of-plum-island-put-on-backburner $50M+ sale of Plum Island put on backburner. The Real Deal: New York Real Estate News. February 22, 2012 06:00PM
- http://books.google.com/books?id=Y4c-AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA438&dq=long+island+history+Samuel+Wyllys&hl=en&sa=X&ei=E4dVUoHXBofe4AOci4Eo&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=long%20island%20history%20Samuel%20Wyllys&f=false Peter Ross and William Smith Pelletreau. A History of Long Island: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 2. Long Island, NY: Lewis Publishing Company, 1905. See Town of Southold - Plum ("Plumme") ("Plumbe") Island
- http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=743 Plum Island Light, Plum Island, NY
- "Record of Decision for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Environmental Impact Statement". Federal Register. Volume 74, Number 11. Friday, January 16, 2009. Notices. Pages 3065-3080.
- http://www.newsday.com/long-island/epa-seeks-environmental-review-before-plum-island-sale-1.1981828 Newsday, "EPA seeks environmental review before Plum Island sale", June 4, 2010
- Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit (14 February 2012). "Planned Kansas Biodefense Laboratory Over the Rainbow?". ScienceInsider. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- "Bishop expresses 'serious concerns' with Plum Island sale". May 17, 2010.
- Interview with staff at the Southold Historical Society, June 2012
- Interview with staff at the Southold Historical Society, June 2012
- Interview with staff at the Southold Historical Society, September 2014
- Interview with staff at the Southold Historical Society, September 2014
- http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-110publ329/pdf/PLAW-110publ329.pdf (Sec. 540 - New York)
- U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop Introduces 'Save, Don't Sell Plum Island' Legislation. July 16, 2013. U.S. House of Representatives Press Release Similar legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate.
- McMullen, K. Y., et al. (2010). Surficial geology of the sea floor in Long Island Sound offshore of Plum Island, New York [Open-file Report 2010-1005]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
- Peter Ross and William Smith Pelletreau. A History of Long Island: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 2. Long Island, NY: Lewis Publishing Company, 1905. See Town of Southold - Plum ("Plumme") ("Plumbe") Island.
- U.S. General Accounting Office. (2003). Combating bioterrorism: actions needed to improve security at Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Washington, D.C.: Author.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2005). Plum Island Animal Disease Center: DHS and USDA are successfully coordinating current work, but long-term plans are being assessed: report to congressional committees. Washington, D.C.: Author.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2007). Plum Island Animal Disease Center: DHS has made significant progress implementing security recommendations, but several recommendations remain open. Washington, D.C.: Author.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2008). High-containment biosafety laboratories: DHS lacks evidence to conclude that foot-and-mouth disease research can be done safely on the U.S. mainland: testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: Author.
- U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2009). Biological research: observations on DHS's analyses concerning whether FMD research can be done as safely on the mainland as on Plum Island: report to congressional committees. Washington, D.C.: Author.
- U.S. House of Representatives. (2008). Germs, viruses, and secrets: government plans to move exotic disease research to the mainland United States: hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, one hundred tenth congress, second session, May 22, 2008. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plum Island (New York).|
- Plum Island Animal Disease Center/Foreign Animal Disease Research
- Plum Island official website
- General Services Administration (GSA) and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS). "Sale of Plum Island, New York"
- General Services Administration (GSA) and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS). “Record of Decision (ROD): Public Sale of Plum Island, New York", August 29, 2013
- General Services Administration (GSA) and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS). "Sale of Plum Island, New York". "Plum Island NY Project Factsheet"
- National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF): Threats to U.S. Food and Animal Agriculture
- Future National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) Site: Manhattan, Kansas. Proposed NBAF Site Location
- Alexandra Cella, “An Overview Of Plum Island: History, Research And Effects On Long Island”, The Long Island Historical Journal, Fall 2003/Spring 2004, Volume 16, Nos. 1-2, pp. 176-181
- Newsday.com - History of Plum Island. By Jennifer Smith. November 14, 2010 8:16 PM
- The Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory. United States. Agricultural Research Service. Animal Disease and Parasite Research Branch. Washington, D.C., 1956 (publication). University of North Texas (UNT) Digital Library
- Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC)
- Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC) - Press Releases
- Letter dated September 30, 2013, from New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), calling for both agencies to submit to a consent order requiring them to present a comprehensive environmental cleanup plan for Plum Island, in Suffolk County, New York, and giving New York State final review of the Island’s conditions before it is put up for sale.
- Schlesinger, M.D., A.L. Feldmann, and S.M. Young. 2012. Biodiversity and Ecological Potential of Plum Island, New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, Albany, New York
- The Case for Preserving Plum Island. Presented by the Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC) March 2010
- "History of Plum Island". Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC)
- "Cultural Resources of Plum Island". Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC)
- "Plum Island's Flora – Wetland, Shrub, Grassland, Forest and Dune Habitats". Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC)
- "Plum Island's Fauna – Threatened and Endangered Birds and Long Island’s Largest Seal Colony". Preserve Plum Island Coalition (PPIC)
- Preserve Plum Island Facebook
- Activists look to save NY's Plum Island (video). NECN Business. August 21, 2013, 7:48 pm
- U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop Introduces 'Save, Don't Sell Plum Island' Legislation. July 16, 2013. U.S. House of Representatives Press Release
- New York Congressman Tim Bishop. 'Save, Don't Sell Plum Island' Press Conference. July 16, 2013. Orient Point. Long Island New York. (YouTube Video)
- "Stop the Sale of Plum Island" (Video by Cablevision. YouTube). Presented by Peter Kohler. July 23, 2013
- CNN.com "The mysterious lab off New York's shore" Friday, April 2, 2004 by Adam Dunn
- Peter Ross and William Smith Pelletreau. A History of Long Island: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 2. Long Island, NY: Lewis Publishing Company, 1905. See Town of Southold - Plum ("Plumme") ("Plumbe") Island