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Contact: Mount Rainier Press Information Line, 360-569-6510
The National Park Service (NPS) has approved a proposal from the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS), Cascades Volcano Observatory to improve the lahar detection system at Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is an active volcano with a history of large lahars (volcanic mudflows) that have previously impacted areas now populated both within and outside of Mount Rainier National Park.
The USGS requested a permit from the NPS in 2019 to expand the existing volcano monitoring system inside the park. The project will increase the number of river drainages covered by the alert system to include the Tahoma Creek and Nisqually River valleys, which, along with the Puyallup River valley, are vulnerable to future landslide-caused lahars from Mount Rainier. Lahars can be triggered with or without a volcanic eruption, and lahars typically follow river drainages as they flow downstream from the sides of a volcano.
“The USGS and NPS worked together to identify how to best meet lahar detection and volcano monitoring needs at Mount Rainier National Park while protecting the character of the Mount Rainier Wilderness and the integrity of the park’s national historic landmark district,” said Greg Dudgeon, the park superintendent. “This proposal not only supports public safety by providing communities more time to react to a lahar, but it also but also ensures protection of the resources that make Mount Rainier National Park such an extraordinary place.”
An environmental assessment (EA) was prepared and provided for public review and comment in 2021. The EA and signed decision notice and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) are available on the project website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/moralahardetection.
The selected alternative approves the installation of lahar detection equipment at nine locations. This equipment will allow rapid detection of lahars along drainages at risk of lahars triggered by landslides instead of volcanic eruptions. This project, once implemented, will help mitigate risk to people living adjacent to Mount Rainier, by reducing the amount of time it takes for an alert to be sent out to potentially affected populations and communities after a lahar has been generated. The project also minimizes the size and extent of the lahar detection system in the Mount Rainier Wilderness and Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District. Work to implement this decision is planned to begin later this year.
For more information on Mount Rainier National Park, please visit www.nps.gov/mora.
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.
Last updated: April 6, 2022