The site at University of Hawaii-Hilo Research Park will also be home to the USGS Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center.

The grounds of a new Hilo facility to replace the severely damaged old Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory on the rim of the Kilauea Volcano caldera were blessed Wednesday in a ceremony attended by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

U.S. Geological Survey Director David Applegate said the new Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center on the same site will total 60,000 square feet of laboratory space, and have a staff of about 100 when completed.

The old volcano observatory at the caldera was irreparably damaged in 2018 during a series of earthquakes and explosions as Kilauea erupted. Applegate said the crater floor dropped more than 1,500 feet during that eruption in a series of collapses that violently shook the old facility.

Attending the blessing of the site of the new Hawaiian Volcano Observatory were, standing from left, U.S. Geological Survey Director David Applegate, University of Hawaii-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and UH President David Lassner.

Since then the observatory staff has operated from makeshift facilities in East Hawaii island. Applegate said the ceremony was “to celebrate the bright future that has begun to take root” with the blessing.

“We’re here to celebrate building a lasting partnership with the people of Hawaii, and to build an interconnected and robust suite of capabilities that will help keep the people of these islands safe and prosperous for generations to come,” he told the audience at the University of Hawaii-Hilo Research Park.

Schatz reminded listeners that his office worked closely with the Department of the Interior and his fellow members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to fend off an attempt to move the observatory to Oahu, and to secure the money for a replacement facility. “It took almost a year, but we won,” he said.

Congress appropriated nearly $60 million in 2019 to replace the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Work on the new observatory and the Ecosystems Research Center is scheduled to be completed in late 2025.

The Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center conducts research to support management and conservation of biological resources in Hawaii and the Pacific.

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