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U.S. House approves $4.7M for USGS Volcano program

  • COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

    Fissure 8 continued to be the primary erupting vent on Kīlauea’s lower East Rift Zone, although several other fissures were observed steaming during a July 13 overflight. This aerial image shows the fissure 8 vent, near center, channelized flow, and distant ocean entry (upper right).

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved more than $4.7 million for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program to be included in an appropriations package, according to Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.

The funding would help the USGS staff on Hawaii island relocate their office, which was badly damaged by seismic activity from the ongoing Kilauea eruption.

“The USGS officials responsible for keeping Hawaii and our neighbors aware of earthquakes and eruptions have had their work curtailed by seismic activity that severely damaged their offices at the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory,” said Hanabusa in a news release. “With the ongoing Kilauea eruption, their work to inform and help maintain public safety has never been more important. The destruction and unpredictable nature of the eruption means government, the community, and first responders need accurate, detailed information to adequately plan and prepare.

In May, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory evacuated from its facilities at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and temporarily relocated to the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The amendment to the fiscal year 2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill was approved by voice vote on Tuesday night, increasing the USGS’ Surveys, Investigations and Research account by more than $4.7 million.

Last month, Hanabusa met with USGS and Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory staff on Hawaii island, and learned that they were working out of classrooms or teleworking. She worked with them to outline and prioritize their needs.

U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard and Don Young (R-Alaska) co-sponsored the amendment.

“The ongoing eruptions at Kilauea, and the continued uncertainty for our Puna residents, has brought to the forefront the USGS’s critical role in monitoring activity, and informing and updating Hawaii’s community,” said Gabbard in a statement. “I’ve been on the ground with these talented and tireless geologists who work around the clock to monitor and try to anticipate activity, so they can send out real-time updates to people whose lives, homes, farms and businesses hang in the balance. This funding is urgently needed to allow their critical work to continue.”

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