Hawaii Volcano Observatory Launches Search For New Site

Aug 27, 2019

HILO — Hawaii Volcano Observatory officials have started a search for a new site after earthquake damage to the observatory last year during the eruption of the Kilauea volcano, officials said.

A federal disaster relief bill signed in June allowed the observatory to begin exploring new properties, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.

"We're just beginning the formal federal process of finding a site. And then, we're going to have to envision a design. These things take time," said Tina Neal, the observatory's scientist-in-charge.

The previous observatory in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park overlooking the Kilauea volcano was abandoned after the quakes that were part of Kilauea's prolonged eruption and began in May 2018. More than 700 homes were destroyed by the eruption.

The $19.1 billion federal relief package for the Big Island includes $49 million for a new observatory, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey. There is also a $20.1 million allocated for ongoing observatory operations in a rented building plus as instrument and equipment replacement.

Staff operated from a space at the University of Hawaii at Hilo until the move to the rented building. The observatory expects to maintain a building in Hilo "for at least a few years" and a smaller facility in the national park, Neal said.

The observatory is still doing all the work it did before the eruption but it was more efficient to operate at the damaged site, she said.

"We have some very smart and sharp people on staff who have kept everything running despite the moves and the lava and the loss of some (monitoring) stations," Neal said. "We're getting all the data we're needing."