Groundbreaking for new HVO facility could happen next year

  • HON

A new Hilo home for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is slowly getting closer to reality.

Ever since HVO’s previous facility was critically damaged during the 2018 Kilauea eruption, the U.S. Geological Survey has been in the process of developing a new 60,000-square-foot facility within the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s campus.

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The U.S. Department of the Interior on Tuesday announced a 30-day public comment period for a pre-environmental assessment consultation, in order for members of the community to identify possible concerns regarding the project before a draft assessment to be completed later this year.

Ken Hon, HVO’s scientist in charge, said the process of developing the new facility is still in very preliminary, with design work still incomplete.

“We’re still stuck on a lot of the same legal stuff as we were months ago,” Hon said. “USGS can only do a 20-year lease. We want to do a longer lease, so we’re trying to work that out.”

However, he added that USGS hopes that groundbreaking for the project could begin as soon as spring 2023, and completed in about five years.

The facility will be located on a 13-acre site at the intersection of Komohana Street and Nowelo Road on the UH-Hilo campus. It will support not only 50 HVO staff — many of whom are using temporary offices at the Hilo Iron Works building — but also 53 staff from the Pacific Island Ecosystem Research Center, a separate USGS office.

Meanwhile, Hon said work to build a new HVO field station within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is continuing somewhat faster than the Hilo facility, but had nothing new to report Tuesday.

Comments on the Hilo facility project can be submitted via email to USGS-Hilo-HVO-PIERC@hhf.com until April 28.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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