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Senate bill would unify all U.S. volcano monitoring activity

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    U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, shown here on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2017, is touting a Senate bill that would combine all U.S. volcano monitoring activity.

U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono announced today that she and fellow U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) have secured the Senate passage of a bill that improves the nation’s volcano monitoring and early-warning capabilities.

The National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act unifies existing volcano monitoring systems and creates a national Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor all active volcanoes in the U.S. and its territories, according to Hirono’s office.

“Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are working around the clock to provide critical, up-to-date information to keep Hawaii island residents safe,” Hirono said in a news release. “This bipartisan bill supports their important efforts by updating and unifying the five volcano observatories across the nation and creating a grant program to support monitoring research and technology development.”

The bill directs the U.S. Geological Survey to unify current volcano monitoring systems — including the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Alaska Volcano Observatory and the Cascades Volcano Observatory — into a single, connected system called the National Volcano Early Warning System.

HVO on Hawaii island was the first such observatory in the United States and has been monitoring volcanoes for more than a century, according to Hirono.

“Volcanic eruptions, like the one in Hawaii and the one earlier this month at Cleveland Volcano in Alaska, are vivid reminders of why it is so critical to have continuous and reliable monitoring systems,” Murkowski said. “I hope the House of Representatives will move quickly to approve this timely legislation so that we can ensure the U.S. Geological Survey has the resources it needs to strengthen our monitoring, warning, and response capabilities.”

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