GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 39-6
Presentation Time: 3:10 PM


MORAN, Seth and PAUK, Benjamin, U.S. Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory, 1300 SE Cardinal Ct Bldg 10, Vancouver, WA 98683-0000

Mount Hood is an active volcano near Portland (Oregon) that was designated a Very High Threat volcano by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2005. Reasons for this designation include recent eruptive activity (1781-1790s) that generated pyroclastic flows and lahars; proximity to a major metropolitan area including an international airport; and a small town, several ski areas, and parts of two heavily used highways all located in near-field volcanic hazard zones. A 2008 USGS report provided scientific rationales and recommendations for U.S. volcano-monitoring networks based on threat level. At the time, Mount Hood had ~50% of the recommended number of seismometers and less than 10% the recommended number of GPS stations. To bring its volcano-monitoring network in line with recommendations, in 2014 the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) submitted a permit request to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for installation of seven new telemetered GPS and seismic monitoring stations on the volcano’s flanks, including four sites located in the Mount Hood Wilderness. Three non-wilderness sites were permitted and installed within two years; however, the permitting process for the four wilderness stations took over five years to complete, a process that was made lengthy, complicated, and expensive by extensive wilderness-use restrictions as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964.

The permitting process ultimately succeeded and resulted in a major improvement in volcano-monitoring capabilities; however, the USFS placed significant restrictions on site installation and maintenance activities. During the permitting process we learned valuable lessons about the arguments needed to convince land-management agencies to allow exceptions to land-use laws like the Wilderness Act -- exceptions that must withstand lawsuits. One such lesson is that rigorous scientific justification is required to demonstrate that proposed instruments are the minimum tool required for hazard mitigation and public safety, justification that needs to be based primarily on the benefit to wilderness users. Here we tell the story of the permitting process as it unfolded at Mount Hood and lessons learned about how to proceed when contemplating installing permanent ground-based real-time monitoring networks in wilderness areas in the Cascades.