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Hawaii News

USGS volcano observatory awaits funds for new base

  • COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY / 2018

    A Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist collects samples of spatter for laboratory analysis in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa on the island of Hawaii. Staff members are settling into another temporary office in Hilo, their third move since the Kilauea Volcano eruption forced the evacuation of their headquarters in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

HILO >> Staff members from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are settling into another temporary office in Hilo, their third move since the Kilauea Volcano eruption forced the evacuation of their headquarters in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

The Hawaii Tribune-­Herald reported Friday that Tina Neal, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s chief scientist, said the relocation should be complete by the end of the month and she expects no glitches in monitoring of active volcanoes.

The agency is awaiting congressional approval of a bill that would allocate disaster recovery funds and allow the observatory to construct new headquarters. The bill, which could get a vote this week, identifies $72.3 million for repair and replacement of equipment and facilities from disasters in 2018. USGS would get funding for new headquarters under the recovery bill.

“Until that happens, we don’t have a budget to deal with, to begin to plan,” Neal said.

Neal said Hawaii island will remain its base, even if some staff relocates to Oahu, which is being considered for additional technical capacity. Concerns that the federal agency was considering moving the facility to Oahu were initially raised by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in late March in questions to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

The former headquarters on Kilauea was heavily damaged during numerous collapses and earthquakes last year.

HVO has about 30 employees. A few will continue to work out of a warehouse in Keaau, where archives and some equipment are stored.

While the observatory’s new home in the Hilo Iron Works building is in the tsunami inundation zone, Neal said they mostly will occupy the second floor. Sensitive equipment will remain at the Keaau warehouse.

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