Despite receiving flack from Republicans earlier this year, volcano monitoring is among the first programs to get federal stimulus dough from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the Associated Press reports.

Of the $140 million that the DOI is shelling out to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), $15.2 million is headed to bolster volcano monitoring programs in the National Volcano Early Warning System, which helped to alert officials to the early rumblings of Mount Redoubt in Alaska before it erupted last month. Also getting a hefty chunk of the cash, earthquake monitoring is receiving $29.4 million to update seismic stations.

"These USGS projects not only stimulate job creation and preservation," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement, "but they stimulate the scientific research that must underpin the decisions we make on behalf of the American people."

Salazar, who is in Alaska this week to assess proposed oil sales, highlighted the importance of the USGS' work. Its "monitoring of Redoubt… alerted people in the pathway of the volcano to take precautions ahead of time," he said. "Protecting the public safety is invaluable." As noted in our Ask the Experts about why volcano monitoring is important, volcanoes pose a threat not just to those on the ground, but people flying overhead as well. Ash from a 1989 eruption of Mount Redoubt almost brought down a Boeing 747 passenger jet en route from Amsterdam to Anchorage by clogging all four engines.

In addition to disaster monitoring, basic infrastructure around the country is in dire straights, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. As part of the announced allotments, the USGS will be getting $44 million to catch up with deferred maintenance of facilities and old water projects alone.

Image of a quieter 2006 Mount Redoubt courtesy of Care SMC via Flickr