Murkowski and Cantwell Introduce Volcano Monitoring Bill

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced bipartisan legislation to modernize and improve the nation’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities.

The National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring Program Act (S. 2056) establishes a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System, which includes the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) and the Cascadia Volcano Observatory, to monitor, warn, and protect citizens from undue and avoidable harm from volcanic activity. The bill would unify the monitoring systems of volcano observatories into a single connected system, as well as create a National Volcano Watch Office operational 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

“Volcanic activity is a part of everyday life for many Alaskans—just last week, clouds of century-old ash from a 1912 volcanic eruption created a hazard for aircraft and possibly for human health,” said Senator Murkowski. “The Alaska Volcano Observatory once again was instrumental in determining whether this would cause a public health hazard, and a national system would help supplement AVO’s efforts to monitor the impacts of volcanic activity.”

“Most Washingtonians remember the impact the Mt. St. Helens eruption had on our communities. We have five active major volcanoes in the Cascade Range, so it’s critical that the Cascades Volcano Observatory has the technology to detect, forecast and warn communities of volcanic activity,” said Senator Cantwell.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory has been constantly underfunded since it was formed in 1988, after an eruption of Mount Augustine. AVO monitors 29 active volcanoes in Alaska, and is one of the busiest observatories in the world. Washington state is also home to the Cascades Volcano Observatory, which is responsible for monitoring volcanoes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho including Washington’s Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams.