Thirty Meter Telescope Gets Notice to Proceed
The controversial Thirty Meter Telescope or TMT project atop Mauna Kea on Hawaiʻi Island has obtained a notice to proceed from the state.
The permit was issued after the state Department of Land and Natural Resources confirmed the completion of the pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures required in the Conservation District.
A start date has not been determined, however, four structures, including two ahu at the TMT site, that were constructed on the mountain by opponents of the project, were removed early Thursday morning.
Opponents of the project have maintained that further development atop the summit would desecrate an area considered sacred. Advocates call the project a next-generation telescope and say the mountain is a special place that can uniquely serve as a window into the universe.
Over the years, a series of demonstrations have taken place by cultural groups and concerned citizens seeking protection of the site from development. At least one arrest was reportedly made at the site on Thursday.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs issued a statement on Thursday afternoon expressing disappointment in the arrest of a “Kiaʻi” or guard/protector, and the dismantling of the “symbolic structures.”
The OHA statement included the following:
“These acts and the manner in which they were conducted, with little to no consultation with the Native Hawaiian community and OHA, exemplify the state and UH’s longstanding and blatant disregard of Mauna Kea’s significance to our beneficiaries, whose deep connection to the sacred mountain was embodied by the ahu and hale pili removed today. The failure to consult with the Native Hawaiian community and OHA prevented government officials from fully understanding the mana imbued over years into these structures.
The absence of these cultural structures has deprived the Mauna of an important contemporary Native Hawaiian cultural presence on this sacred place beset with foreign activities. Today is just another sad chapter in the state and UH’s longstanding mismanagement of Mauna Kea, and only affirms the urgent need for a change in management of Mauna Kea as sought by OHA’s lawsuit against DLNR and the UH.
We ask government officials to carefully consider the safety and well-being of our people and work towards a peaceful resolution.”
Governor David Ige said,“We will proceed in a way that respects the people, place and culture that make Hawaiʻi unique. I will continue to work with the University of Hawaiʻi and all our partners to make meaningful changes that further contribute to the co-existence of culture and science on Mauna Kea.”
Officials with the Board of Land and Natural Resources weighed in. “My staff and I have carefully reviewed the TMT project plans to ensure they are aligned with the permit approved by the board and upheld by the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court,” said Chair, Suzanne Case. “The project has met all pre-construction requirements under the Conservation District Use Permit. As this project moves forward, I ask everyone who goes to Mauna Kea to respect this unique place and its fragile natural and cultural resources.”
Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare Connors said the notice to proceed with construction gives project managers, workers and others from the community authorization to begin work on the telescope. She said, “They will need safe access to the work site and safe conditions under which to work. The state will work to ensure their safety as well as the right of individuals to engage in speech about the project.”
University of Hawai‘i President, David Lassner called the notice to proceed “an important milestone in what has been a decade-long public and consultative process.” He continued saying, “We firmly believe in the benefits of the most advanced telescope in the world on the most magnificent and awe-inspiring mountain in the world. We also accept the increased responsibilities for the stewardship of Mauna Kea, including the requirement that as this very last site is developed for astronomy on the mauna, five current telescopes will be decommissioned and their sites restored.”
Henry Yang, Chair, TMT International Observatory Board of Governors, issued a statement in response to the news saying:
“TMT is pleased and grateful that the notice to proceed has been issued by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to the University of Hawaiʻi. We remain committed to being good stewards of Mauna Kea, and to honoring and respecting the culture and traditions of Hawaiʻi. It has been a long process to get to this point. We are deeply grateful to our many friends and community supporters for their advice and for their encouragement and support of the TMT project over the years.”