Throughout December, as Congress’ new COVID-19 relief and annual appropriations legislation was being negotiated, I worked closely with House and Senate leadership and the White House and other officials in the administration, to secure important local priorities for Long Island to save Plum Island and multiple local sewer projects, as well as advance six Army Corps of Engineers projects located in our Congressional District.
I secured long-awaited historic language to permanently repeal the federal law to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had opposed reversing this federal law due to long-standing opposition by the Department of Homeland Security. As Congressional funding was being negotiated, I worked closely with Sen. Johnson and White House and DHS leadership to successfully advocate for their assistance to remove the opposition and get this extremely high priority over the finish line for the First Congressional District of New York. I also worked with Sen. Schumer who played an important role as well to support this effort.
Not only does Plum Island offer diverse wildlife, a precious ecosystem and critical habitat for migratory birds, marine mammals, and rare plants, but it is an essential cultural and historical resource as well. The current law, which mandates the sale of the island to the highest bidder, is the wrong path forward. 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.
Additionally, I saved three local sewer projects, Carlls River, Patchogue River and Forge River, by securing an extension of the deadline to use Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief funding. The coronavirus outbreak has impacted so many aspects of our way of life, and our response must include saving local infrastructure projects that have experienced unexpected delays as a result of the pandemic. These local projects are critical to our quality of life in Suffolk County, and I’m honored to deliver this huge win to ensure these projects get across the finish line.
Also in the upcoming Congressional spending bill is authorization for six NY-1 coastal infrastructure priorities, including the Fire Island to Montauk Point project, which is an over-$1 billion project that includes funding for essential dredging and shoreline projects spanning 83 miles of coastline, 80% of which is in the First Congressional District. It includes a variety of coastal and wetland restoration projects that will use the natural environment to reduce flooding, erosion, and storm damage, while also preserving the natural environment and habitat for wildlife and provides various coastal management initiatives for the bay side of the barrier beaches.
Also included is Coastal Storm Risk Management for Hashamomuck Cove in Southold, where right now local residents, businesses and first responders are paralyzed during even a severe thunderstorm. Additionally, this legislation authorizes a feasibility study for a project at Wading River Creek in Riverhead and expedites feasibility studies for projects at Reel Point Preserve in Shelter Island, Goldsmith Inlet in Southold, and Lake Montauk Harbor in Montauk.
All of these important local victories come on top of additional coronavirus relief to assist struggling small businesses, individuals and families, and schools, while ramping up vaccine distribution to help us get back to our way of life.
The progress included in this new Congressional legislation is critical to Long Islanders’ way of life, and it’s an honor to have delivered these vital wins for our community. I look forward to continuing to fight for the priorities most important to our communities.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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