Cantwell Secures Passage of Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the former ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today secured passage of S. 346, the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act, as part of the Senate’s major bipartisan public lands package. This legislation improves the nation’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities and strengthens existing monitoring systems, including the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, to help keep communities and travelers safe. 

Currently, Washington state has five active volcanoes, including two of the top three most dangerous volcanoes in the United States, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). They are: Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, and Mount Adams. 

“Having active volcanoes in both Washington and Alaska, it is so important for us to have the right science and monitoring of these volcanoes,” Senator Cantwell said. “I was so glad to work on that provision to give the latest and best tools to our scientists so they can give us the best, important information for the future.” 

S. 346 directs the USGS to modernize the volcano warning system to improve early warning and install new sensors on volcanoes with sparse instrumentation. The bill supports funding for the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, which oversees high-risk volcanoes in Washington and Oregon, many with very little instrumentation. The modernization includes deploying new sensors, seismometers, and GPS devices needed to protect communities at risk from volcano threats. 

The bill also creates one National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System, which will improve coordination and monitoring for the regional observatories, including the Cascades Volcano Observatory. It also creates a Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor all active volcanoes in the U.S. and its territories in real time. 

“With five major volcanoes along the Cascade Range, this is a threat that can’t be ignored,” said Robert Ezelle, director of Washington’s Emergency Management Division. “History has proven how damaging a volcanic eruption can be in our state. Any actions to improve our ability to monitor, detect and warn of possible eruptions are welcome and necessary. I applaud Senator Cantwell and her ongoing commitment to create a safer, more prepared Washington state.” 

Senator Cantwell originally introduced the legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the committee’s chairman, and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) last Congress. The package of legislation now moves on to consideration in the House of Representatives, which is expected to quickly take up and pass it. 

A one-pager with more information on the Senate’s public lands package is available HERE.