(BIVN) – Plans for a new USGS Hilo Research Facility, to be located off Komohana Street, are detailed in a Draft Environmental Assessment published in The Environmental Notice.
The facility will support the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the Pacific Island Ecosystem Research Center. It will be located on State land on the north corner of Komohana Street and Nowelo Road, in the area of the USDA / US Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center and across the street from the University Research Park UH Hilo and ʻImiloa Astronomy Center.
The U.S Department of the Interior wrote that the project will provide a replacement facility on 6.8 acres of State-owned land, after the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) facilities in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park were irreparably damaged by the 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption. The Pacific Islands Ecosystem Research Center (PIERC), is also currently located in HVNP. The proposed new location “allows HVO and PIERC to work collaboratively with university faculty and students and strengthen academic and research partnerships,” the summary in The Environmental Notice states. “The site is part of a larger parcel granted to the University of Hawai‘i by Executive Order 3814 in 2000. The UH Hilo fully supports the project and will execute a Use and Occupancy Agreement with USGS.”
The 6.8 acres being proposed for use by the USGS is part of the larger, 267-acre tax map parcel that makes up UH Hilo’s Mauka Lands Master Plan, “a long-range plan for the expansion of UH Hilo’s research facilities that includes a future Hawai‘i Community College, Komohana Campus. Hawai‘i Governor Linda Lingle accepted the UH Hilo’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mauka Lands Master Plan in 2005.”
From the Draft EA document:
The main Research Facility will be a three-story building fronting Nowelo Street. The first floor will include laboratory bays, private and open offices, conference rooms, work areas, and a main lobby. The ground floor will be occupied by HVO. The second floor includes similar laboratory bays, offices, and work areas, and will be occupied by PIERC. The third floor of the building included mechanical space and an open observation deck.
The Warehouse and Field Support building will support HVO and PIERC operations and serve as a bridge between laboratory and field functions. Most of the interior will be an open plan warehouse with 18-foot minimum clearance and a high loading access bay. The building will include administrative spaces, a climate-controlled room for the USGS archives; field gear storage and maintenance areas, and lockers/restrooms/showers. At the far east end of the building there will be labs and lab support spaces for PIERC, an insectary and animal housing area separated from the main building. A 11 ft x 99 ft linear greenhouse will be situated along the southern side of the warehouse and under the large overhanging roof.
The entire north side of the warehouse will provide covered field support and will include spaces that are either fully outdoors or semi-enclosed. This field support area will have a large roof overhang extending 22 feet from north façade of the warehouse with vertical screening. There will be areas for field staging prep, hazardous materials storage, loading, battery charging enclosures and an open-air field shop all located under the overhang. A small CMU Pump House is proposed west of the parking access off Nowelo Street. There will also be an emergency generator in this area.
The Draft EA, prepared by the University of Hawaiʻi with consultant HHF Planners, anticipates a Finding of No Significant Impact, and was prepared in compliance with the State of Hawai‘i Environmental Policy Act (HEPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The document notes that a small station for HVO field staff is being planned in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, “as a separate project with multiple facilities on National Park Service property. The field station is not dependent on or part of this Proposed Action.”
The publishing of the Draft EA begins a statutory 30-day public review and comment period. Comments are due by March 28, 2023.