It’s no mystery what good is happening on Plum Island, New York
August 2, 2011
As a child growing up on Long Island, New York, I was curious, along with other children, what was occurring on the mysterious Plum Island, that’s restricted by the public and located just off our northeastern shore.
There was talk in the media, along with movies and in books that the Federal Government was conducting animal experiments. So my vivid imagination envisioned frankensteinian operations being performed on animals who then roam the island's barren beaches on additional arms and legs.
Ironically, I was reading the book - Plum Island by Nelson Demille - when I learned about the work, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District has been performing on the island for the past decade.
Plum Island is the location of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) that’s been in existence since the mid 20th century. The center has the important role of performing diagnosis, research and education to protect America’s livestock and food supply from animal diseases.
The work by the Corps is supporting real and important work on the island, as well as preserving the island's rich history and environment and improving area beaches for the upcoming beach season.
In 2001, the Army Corps was asked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, proprietors of the island at the time, to restore the eroding bluff around its historic light house that is no longer in operation. The Plum Island Light is situated on three-acres on the west end and was built in 1827.
“We constructed an 800-foot rock revetment erosion control structure to stop the erosion of the bluff,” said Stanley Michalowski, Project Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.
“To build the revetment, 17,000 tons of stone was used. Afterwards there was some stone remaining, to rehab two jetties located at the entrance to Plum Island Basin.”
The stone used for all of this work was beneficially reused material from the Army Corps Sag Harbor Breakwater Rehab Project.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the proprietors of the island today, were so pleased with the Army Corps' work that they asked the agency to replace a bulkhead and perform some needed sand dredging in Plum Island Harbor, a body of water around the island, and Orient Harbor, a body of water on the northeastern end of Long Island.
The dredging work supports the important work that’s being performed and improving area beaches for the upcoming beach season.
In order for many workers to get to the island, they must travel on a ferry from Orient Harbor and Old Lyme and take it across Plum Island Harbor to get to the island.
Ferries were hitting the bottom of the harbor, so the harbor needed to be dredged and deepened in order for the ferry to get through and also to enable oil tankers to bring fuel to the island.
In 2008, the Army Corps dredged approximately 17,430 cubic yards of sand from Plum Island Harbor and this year dredged an additional 9,925 cubic yards for use in creating and reinforcing a previously constructed dune on the island and also to build a sand stockpile for emergency use if the dune erodes.
Restoring this dune protects a freshwater wetland on the island. This freshwater wetland is the recharge area for the island’s main well field that supplies the island with all of its fresh water.
The dune acts as a barrier and prevents the ocean’s salt water from mixing with the wetland’s fresh water ecosystem.
In 2008, 46,000 square feet of the dune was graded and vegetated with hand planted beach grass. This year an additional 13,250 square feet of the dune was graded and vegetated. In addition, fencing was placed on the dune to help prevent sand erosion.
The Army Corps also dredged approximately 14,835 cubic yards of sand from Orient Harbor and this sand was used to restore two Long Island beaches " Orient Beach State Park and Orient Point County Park. The Army Corps plans on dredging an additional 10,000 cubic yards this fall.
These beaches need the sand because they experienced serious beach erosion from storms. The sand is being used to stabilize utility poles that were weakened and blown inward and protect roadways that experienced erosion. In addition, the sand will build up beaches, which will provide additional recreational area for the public for the summer beach season.
Dr. JoAnne Castagna is a technical writer-editor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org