WA Senator Cantwell introduces volcano monitoring bill

By:  Danny Palomba
Source: KXLY News

OLYMPIA, Wash. - With increased attention on volcanic activity in the United States, including the five active volcanoes in Washington state, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), secured passage of S. 346, the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act on Wednesday.

This legislation plans to improve the nation’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities as well as strengthen the existing monitoring systems, including the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Washington state and Oregon.

Currently, Washington state has five active volcanoes, including two of the top three most dangerous volcanoes in the United States. The 5 volcanoes are Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, and Mount Adams.

“This bill connects needed volcano monitoring systems in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Washingtonians remember the impact the Mt. St. Helens eruption had on our communities 38 years ago,” Senator Cantwell said. “Our state has five of the highest threat volcanoes in the nation, and as we’re seeing in Hawaii right now, these volcanoes are a persistent and serious threat. The safety of our communities is paramount, and our legislation will ensure we have the science, technology, and monitoring needed to keep people informed and safe.”

S. 346 strengthens existing volcano monitoring systems – which include the Cascades Volcano Observatory, the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory – and would unify them into a single connected system called the National Volcano Early Warning System. These observatories monitor, warn, and help protect citizens and travelers from volcanic activity – particularly high-threat vol17/canoes.

The bill also creates a Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to provide continuous situational awareness of all active volcanoes in the U.S. and its territories, such as the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

The passage of Senator Cantwell’s legislation comes one day before Washington state marks the 38th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

That blast sent ash and pyroclastic flow more than 15 miles into the atmosphere and triggered the largest landslide ever recorded, killing 57 people and causing more than $1 billion in damage to surrounding communities.

The bill now moves on to consideration in the House of Representatives.