Reporter editorial: Thank you, Mr. Zeldin

As a tropical storm had Shelter Island in its sights this week, it is apt that the House of Representatives passed a bill that would help save Reel Point from being washed away.

Part of an omnibus bill for water projects around the country, the Water Resources Development Act of 2020, includes — due to Congressman Lee Zeldin’s support — studies to be done by the Army Corps of Engineers for “navigation and shoreline stabilization” at Reel Point.

For years, there has been dredging at the site to aid navigation, but that’s been a Band-aid on a gushing wound.

The slender piece of land that reaches down from Big Ram Island protects Coecles Harbor — and the businesses and residences that line its shores — from heavy waves driven by storms. Many Island baymen also depend on the harbor for their livelihoods. With the House’s passage of the new bill, it can “jumpstart,” in Congressman Zeldin’s words, protection for the Point.

This page has often been in opposition to Mr. Zeldin’s priorities and stances on issues, but we salute him for championing solutions to environmental dangers to his district. He has been pushing for the Army Corps to get seriously involved for years, and now it looks like there might be funds to speed the process.

Preserve Plum Island

A 150-pound seal on a rock at Plum Island. (Reporter file photo)

The federal government put Plum Island up for auction more than a decade ago as part of a plan to relocate the island’s acclaimed animal research lab to Kansas and to pay for the construction with the proceeds from the sale. The new lab is expected to open in 2023.

A Manhattan real estate developer named Donald Trump floated a trial balloon in 2013 that he would buy the island and turn it into a “world class” golf club. Saner heads prevailed, and, anyway, Mr. Trump was probably just trying to get his name in the papers.

Environmental advocates Save the Sound and The Nature Conservancy wrote a recent report, “Envision Plum Island.” The goal of the report, and the work of both groups over the past few years, is to convince the federal government to drop its plan to auction off this remarkable piece of real estate as if it were disposing of old office desks or typewriters. The Envision Plum Island report lays out all the characteristics — historic and environmental — that make the island unique and worthy of preservation.

Just one example of the riches the island possesses: The survey found that the island is home to 227 bird species, nearly a quarter of all bird species in the United States and Canada, stretching all the way to the Arctic.

All important stakeholders have weighed in to support preservation, yet the sale of the island remains a possibility and the federal government may begin marketing it in September to potential buyers.

We can imagine the ads: Historic island off Orient Point for sale! Perfect place for golf courses and high-end waterfront homes!

This long back-and-forth over Plum Island must end with its preservation. No mansions, no golf courses, no helicopter landing pads. No billionaires in private jets. Just abundant natural beauty and an uncommon diversity of plants and animals.