Interior Secretary: Firm Decision On Volcano Observatory Location Months Away

Jun 2, 2019

FILE -- A reddish-brown ash plume rises after a magnitude-6.9 earthquake shook the Island of Hawai‘i on May 3, 2018. The ground shaking caused rockfalls and possibly additional collapse into the Pu'u 'Ō'ō crater on Kīlauea Volcano's East Rift Zone.
Credit U.S. Geological Survey

A final decision on where the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory will be located remains months away, U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said last week during a visit to the Big Island.

Bernhardt was on the island to see the damage to the observatory and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that occurred during last year's Kilauea eruption. Observatory scientists were forced to temporarily relocate their operations.

In comments to the media, including Big Island Video News, the secretary didn't fully commit to keeping the scientists on the Big Island rather than moving them to Oahu as some federal officials have suggested be done. But he provided assurances to residents who want the U.S. Geological Survey and the observatory it operates to remain where the volcanoes are active.

"It is a very fair statement so say that they are certainly very closely related to the island," Bernhardt said of USGS, adding, "we have not made the call on whether they'll be in the park or not." He said he will be fully involved in making that decision. When asked if he thought the observatory would remain on the island, he said: "I have a hard time believing it won't be."

Last week, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono said she had received a commitment from the director of USGS that the observatory will remain on the Big Island.

Bernhardt said he believes officials are months away from making a firm decision on the observatory's location. That determination depends on a $19 billion supplemental disaster aid bill that has been delayed in Congress.

Several House Republicans have been seeking a recorded vote on the bill and funding for President Trump's border security programs. The measure is scheduled for a roll call vote this week.

Bernhardt had been scheduled to meet with Gov. David Ige during his Hawaii visit but it was put off after a delay in the secretary's flight. He said he'll likely catch up with the governor at the Western Governors' Association meeting in Colorado next week that Ige will chair.