US Geological Survey searches for new site for observatory

HILO, Hawaii - The U.S. Geological Survey is looking for a new home for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory after it became displaced because of the Kilauea volcano eruption last year.

The observatory office and Jaggar Museum near the edge of the Kilauea caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are considered irreparable following dozens of collapses to the caldera, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Saturday.

The agency is looking at several possibilities for a long-term permanent home, including sites on the Big Island and even Oahu, said Janet Babb, observatory spokeswoman and geologist.

"Those planning efforts are examining a multitude of options including ones on the island of Hawaii," Babb said. "Oahu has been mentioned, but it's not any more or less likely than other options that are on the table."

Observatory personnel are currently working out of offices at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. They plan to move to a consolidated location at the former Hilo Iron Works building in April or May, Babb said.

Officials don't know how long it will take to find a new location for the observatory, Babb said. When asked about why Oahu — where there is not a volcano threat — is an option, Babb referred questions to the agency's Washington, D.C. spokesman, Paul Laustsen.

"USGS is still in the process of working with Congress and other stakeholders to determine the best solution for HVO, one that will allow us to provide appropriate monitoring and maintain working relationships on the island and within the emergency management community," Laustsen said in an email.

The observatory has been at Kilauea for more than a century, before the national park was created. Babb said the observatory staff would like to stay in the park, but they will continue their work no matter where their office is located.

"The work of monitoring Hawaiian volcanoes has continued uninterrupted, just as it was last summer," Babb said.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/


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