(BIVN) – Officials are seeking public input on a new facility, to be located on a 13-acre site near the University of Hawaiʽi at Hilo campus, for two U.S. Geological Survey programs.
On Friday, the The U.S. Department of the Interior announced it is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) for a new facility to support the USGS Hawaiʽi Volcano Observatory (HVO) and Pacific Island Ecosystem Research Center (PIERC). The facility will be located near the north corner of the intersection of Komohana Street and Nowelo Road.
From the document:
The mission of the USGS Hawaiʽi Volcano Observatory (HVO) is to monitor, investigate, and assess hazards from active volcanoes and earthquakes in Hawaii, and communicate the results of this work to the public, emergency managers, and the scientific community. Due to its proximity to the active volcanoes of Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, Lōʽihi, and Hualālai, HVO attracts geoscientists from all over the world to conduct cutting edge research. HVO scientists also frequently interact with community groups to provide education on volcanology, hazards, and earth science.
The Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center (PIERC) conducts research to support and implement sound management and conservation of biological resources in Hawaiʽi and other Pacific locations. Its research focuses on imperiled species, invasive species, plant diseases (e.g., Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death), and ecosystem processes. The results of PIERC research is of tremendous value to island communities seeking to live in harmony with changing climate, ecosystems, and invasive threats. It is used to inform management decisions of the U.S. Department of Interior and other federal and state agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations.
Purpose and Need for Action
In 2018, the eruption and partial summit collapse of Kīlauea Volcano damaged the existing USGS HVO facility, prompting HVO to abandon its main building. Since the eruption, 30 existing staff have been using temporary facilities in Hilo for office, lab and warehouse functions, as well as working from home due to COVID-19. There are no plans to repair the existing facility due to safety and cost issues, and a permanent base of operations that is not vulnerable to future eruptions is needed.
The existing PIERC facilities in the Hawaiʽi Volcanoes National Park were not affected by eruption-related damage. However, PIERC has long sought to relocate closer to resources and colleagues in Hilo. Cumulatively, these changes prompted USGS to propose a consolidated HVO-PIERC science hub in Hilo. Both programs require a modern facility to support ongoing research, field operations, laboratory, and community education activities.
The proposed project (Figure 2), will provide replacement facilities for HVO and PIERC, supporting approximately 50 staff and volunteers from HVO and 53 staff and volunteers from PIERC. The facility will be approximately 60,000 SF in size, and will include office spaces, conference rooms, laboratories, warehouse and storage, and an operations/monitoring center.
Both HVO and PIERC work collaboratively with University of Hawaiʽi faculty and students, and the location near the UH Hilo campus will strengthen academic and research partnerships and create learning opportunities for students. The project will be beneficial to students and faculty by providing a USGS science facility on campus, increasing student interaction with scientists, and allow shared use of
laboratory and other equipment.
The project site is part of a larger parcel of land that was granted to the University of Hawaiʻi by Executive Order No. 3814, dated April 11, 2000, “for the University of Hawaii and its allied purposes[.]” The proposed use is consistent with the purpose and intent of the Executive Order, and its use as a HVO/PIERC Facility is supported by the University.
This pre-assessment consultation, being conducted in accordance with Chapter 343 Hawai’i Revised Statutes (HRS) (Environmental Impact Statements), is intended to ensure that interested parties are notified of the forthcoming Draft Environmental Assessment and are given the opportunity to identify relevant issues and concerns to be addressed. The Draft Environmental Assessment will describe the existing physical, biological, and socio-economic environment, and the anticipated impacts of the proposed project. It will include the results of technical studies including civil engineering, archaeology, cultural impacts, traffic, noise, and flora and fauna.
Officials say initial comments are due by April 28, 2022. Written comments can be sent to EA consultant HHF Planners at the email USGS-Hilo-HVO-PIERC@hhf.com