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Oliveira urges continued federal lava funding

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about 1.1 miles downslope of Puu Oo crater
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This aerial photo

PAHOA, Hawaii >> The message to a congressional committee regarding volcano hazards was clear Wednesday morning: Hawaii County will need support as long as lava continues to threaten the island’s Puna District.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira told a House Natural Resources subcommittee that federal assistance has been appreciated and is a vital part of the county and state’s efforts.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on volcano preparation and response.

In a Nov. 11 letter, Oliveira wrote the following to Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.: “As we move forward with the response and mitigation of the current eruption event, it is essential to consider the unique issues and challenges that may likely exceed the capabilities and capacity of the local and state government and to continue to receive federal support to the fullest extent possible.”

Since the beginning of the June 27 eruptive phase, the lava flow has advanced on average more than 174 yards per day with peak advancement rates of more than 400 yards per day.

Based on a overflight conducted by Hawaii County Civil Defense on Wednesday morning, there was no major lava flow activity except for a breakout north of an abandoned geothermal well site, officials said.

In preparation, the county and state have developed protective measures for at-risk utility poles, constructed three alternative access routes for area residents, and established temporary classrooms for students whose schools are threatened by the lava flow. Meanwhile, scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory have been working around the clock, monitoring the lava’s activity, providing daily updates to the community and county, and assisting in the weekly community meetings.

Oliveira, who was questioned by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, via video Wednesday, said he also provided the committee with additional information about the flow and its latest activity and spoke out about the efforts put forth by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

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