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TMT Contested Case Deadlines Set

Presiding Officer Issues Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Deadlines

In an order (Minute Order No. 43) issued today, contested case hearing officer Judge Riki May Amano (ret.) notified the parties of upcoming filing deadlines in the Contested Case Hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. During the evidentiary portion of the Contested Case Hearing, spread over five months in late 2016 and early 2017, twenty-five parties to the case presented testimony and evidence.

Today’s order sets May 30, 2017 as the deadline for the parties to submit proposed findings of facts and conclusions of law.  Responses to these proposals are due by June 13, 2017.  Each response shall identify by Document Number the specific decision and order, findings of fact and conclusions of law to which it responds.

Minute Order No. 43 and all other minute orders and documents related to the TMT Contested Case can be viewed at: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/mk/documents-library/.

Complete transcripts from the TMT Contested Case Hearing were made available yesterday at Hilo Public Library, Kailua Kona Public Library, Thelma Parker Memorial Library, and Edward H. Mookini Library on Hawaii island, and at the Hawaii State Public Library on Oahu.

Judge Amano will consider all filings and submit her proposed recommendation.  The matter will then go back to the State Board of Land and Natural Resources for argument, review and final decision.

Public Comment Period for Draft Environmental Assessment, Maunakea Visitor Information Station

The public is invited to comment on a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for Infrastructure Improvements at Maunakea Visitor Information Station (VIS). The University of Hawaiʻi Hilo is proposing a set of infrastructure improvements at Halepōhaku to accommodate and address the increase in the number of visitors to the mountain; ensure the safety of visitors and workers; prevent unintended impacts to natural, historic, and cultural resources on the Halepōhaku and adjacent parcels; and comply with the Board of Land and Natual Resources (BLNR)-approved Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

The Proposed Action includes: a new means of ingress and egress for vehicles to the VIS, a new access lane and parking area, paving of an unimproved path to provide access from the new parking area to the VIS, drainage features, a greenhouse, and relocation of a cabin. Project activities would occur on the university’s leased lands. The access to the ingress/egress and the new parking area would be through access points identified in the Halepōhaku parcel lease.

Improving traffic conditions and visitor access to the VIS is important to maintaining a safe experience for visitors and workers. The CMP states that for safety reasons, all parking should be on the same side of the road as existing Halepōhaku facilities. The proposed infrastructure changes improve access and safety for visitors and workers by adding ingress and egress routes that facilitate traffic flow and building a new VIS Parking Area. The purpose of the project is to replace unsafe, ad hoc, road shoulder parking that is resulting in degraded conditions, and provide for safe access to the VIS from the new parking lot.

Comment period

The public comment period runs 30 days from March 8, 2017 to April 7, 2017. Comments may be submitted via email to: comments@srgii.com or via regular mail to: Attention: Maunakea VIS Infrastructure Improvements Draft EA Comments, Office of Maunakea Management, 640 N. Aʻohoku Place, Hilo, HI 96720.

See Draft Environmental Assessment

Canadian Firm Awarded $10 Million for Design and Production Readiness Phases of TMT Enclosure

Empire Industries Ltd. announced that its Dynamic Structures division has been awarded a contract from Canadian Commercial Corporation for the final design and production readiness phases of the Thirty Meter Telescope enclosure.  The contract is valued at approximately $10 million, and is expected to be completed over the next 20 months.

TMT laserThe Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth. When completed, TMT will enable astronomers to study objects in our own solar system and stars throughout our Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe.  For more information about TMT, go to www.tmt.org.

The TMT project is being undertaken by a consortium of universities, institutions and governments from the United States, Canada, Japan, China, and India.  The TMT enclosure is one of several key deliverables that Canada will be contributing to the TMT partnership under which Canada will provide up to $243.5 million over 10 years to support Canada’s participation in TMT.

Dynamic Structures has developed an innovative calotte shape for the TMT enclosure.  The design significantly reduces the size and improves the speed of the enclosure, to effectively shield the telescope and instruments from temperature variations, unbalanced wind forces, snow and ice.  The enclosure will rotate and track the telescope’s field of view. When completed, the enclosure will be 55 meters high and be assembled from over hundreds of thousands of parts.

The enclosure design is expected to be executed between 2016 and Q1 2018. Subsequent phases of the Canadian enclosure project, including fabrication, shipping the enclosure to the project site, supervision of the enclosure’s installation, and commissioning of the structure, have not yet been awarded.

“It is an honor to be selected to design one of the most sophisticated moving structures on the planet, said Guy Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of Empire Industries Ltd.  “Dynamic Structures has been actively working on TMT since it was first conceived over ten years ago.  We are looking forward to seeing it through to completion.”

PUEO Commentary – Disagreement in Claims that Native Hawaiians are Against TMT

National media coverage of the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (“TMT”) has consistently reported that Native Hawaiians are against its construction. We from Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities, Inc. (“PUEO”) strongly disagree with these claims.

TMT laser

Latest polling on Oahu shows not only a majority of voters support the TMT project, but support from Native Hawaiians has grown into a majority. PUEO is buoyed by the news of poll numbers conducted by Ward Research for the Star Advertiser showing 76% support for TMT with 57% of Native Hawaiians in favor.

As we have stated, PUEO hopes to bring a vision of clarity and unity to the process through the perpetuation of unique educational opportunities for our children. We believe that our voice of inclusiveness is getting heard in our communities, and that moving forward with aloha, and integrating culture and science are in the best interests for Hawai`i’s future.

PUEO is a Native Hawaiian led non-profit dedicated to enhancing and creating educational opportunities for Hawaii’s youth and their communities. PUEO’s focus on bridging traditional knowledge and scientific opportunities are specific to Hawaii and Hawaiian Culture.

In addition to the restoration of the voyaging canoe, Hokualakai, we also provide opportunities for kids to engage in hands-on, inter-disciplinary learning environments. Our intent is based on a unifying vision of Hawaiian language, culture, science, technology and exploration. PUEO seeks to provide and enhance the opportunities for our children to continue the Hawaiian tradition and culture of exploration and learning to all members of our communities.

PUEO recognizes the importance of Hawaii’s children to seek knowledge from all sources in order to survive and thrive and to create careers that sustain the survival of their families and needs in Hawaii into the future. PUEO was born to assist our children in this traditional and noble journey.

For more information on PUEO, the public is invited to contact us at www.alohapueo.org.

Hawaii State Land Board Reaffirms Judge Riki May Amano as TMT Contested Case Hearing Officer

The Board of Land and Natural Resources (the “Board”) today issued Minute Order No. 9 (the “Order”) in the Contested Case Hearing for the Conservation District Use Application (“CDUA”) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (“TMT”) at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. In the Order the Board unanimously denied a motion to disqualify retired Hilo judge Riki May Amano as the hearing officer in the case.

TMT laser

The Order provides the Board’s detailed reasons for denying the motion. It also restates some of the Board’s findings in denying a previous disqualification motion.

The Board also unanimously declined to grant objections to Board member Chris Yuen’s service on the selection committee that picked Judge Amano.

The Board’s Order addresses the public scrutiny facing this contested case hearing and notes that both the Petitioners and the University of Hawaii are concerned that Judge Amano’s selection may not survive review in an appellate court. As it reasoned, however,

 “[t]he Board is concerned that, taken to its logical extreme, ensuring a contested case process that subjectively ‘appears to be fair’ to every possible person who takes an interest in the TMT project would likely necessitate not only the disqualification of Judge Amano but of every potential hearing officer who otherwise possessed the acumen to hear this case.”

It goes on to provide that

“[n]o qualified hearing officer candidate is likely to satisfy all spectators and remove all fears of reversal. The Board will not go down this rabbit hole.”

Instead, the Board adopts the objective standard cited in a previous Supreme Court decision (Mauna Kea Anaina Hou v. Board of Land and Natural Resources, 136 Hawai‘i 376, 395, 363 P.3d 224, 243 (2015)). It found,

“the commitment to an objective ‘appearance of fairness’ test is consistent throughout Hawai‘i judicial decisions.”

Further, the Order provides that,

“[w]ith due respect and consideration to the parties’ various interests and reasons for asking the Board to replace Judge Amano, the Board cannot and will not sidestep its own administrative responsibility to exercise judgment and common sense regarding whether the selection process up until now has objectively appeared to be fair. Common sense must prevail.”

As for the Petitioners’ claim that board member Yuen should recuse himself in this matter and should not have served as a member of the selection committee for the hearing officer, the Board found that a statement made nearly two decades before the TMT CDUA was filed is not evidence of bias or prejudgment.

Quoting Yuen’s written response to the Petitioners’ objections,

“I think that the policy for board members is similar to that for judges: there is a duty to serve when you are not legally disqualified, just as there is a duty to disqualify yourself when good cause exists . . . Board members should not be selected for the absence of opinions: they have to know how to review facts and decide particular cases on their merits given the legal criteria.”

Minute Order No. 9, along with all other orders released by the Board, are available on the DLNR website at the location noted below.

Minute Order No. 9

http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/faqs/mauna-kea-faq/

 

Judge Riki May Amano Affirmed as TMT Contested Case Officer

All seven members of the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources (Board), in a decision released today, directed retired Hawai‘i island Judge Riki May Amano to proceed as the contested case hearing officer for the Conservation Use District Application (CDUA) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

TMT laser

In response to objections raised by certain parties (“Petitioners”) to Judge Amano’s selection as the TMT hearing officer due to her family membership in the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center (“‘Imiloa”) operated by the University of Hawaii-Hilo, the Board stated: “A ‘family membership’ does not confer any right to participate in ‘Imiloa’s governance or decision making, in contrast to organizations where members may vote for a board of directors or other officers,” and the membership simply allows her and her family to “view exhibits and displays at a museum that focuses on astronomy, Mauna Kea, and Hawaiian culture.”

In written disclosures to the Board last month, Judge Amano stated that she and her husband paid $85 per year since 2008 to maintain an ‘Imiloa family membership, which allows free admission to the astronomy center and discounts at the center restaurant and gift shop. Judge Amano further declared that her family membership expires on May 24, 2016 and will not be renewed.

The Board stated, “No reasonable person would infer that the possibility of this ‘benefit’ (‘Imiloa family membership) would override the hearing officer’s duty to make an impartial recommendation to the Board.”  The Hawai’i Revised Code of Judicial Conduct directly addresses the issue of how to treat Judge Amano’s membership if ‘Imiloa is assumed to be a party to the contested case. “The rule provides that a judge shall disqualify herself if the judge or her specific listed relative are a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, general partner, managing member of trustee of a party.  While this list is not exhaustive, what is significant to the BLNR is that all of these grounds involve some kind of fiduciary or managerial relationship between the judge (or the judge’s relative) and the party.  Such relationships do not remotely resemble the ‘family membership’ at issue here,” said the Board in its decision.

The Board carefully deliberated as to Judge Amano’s statement that she initially saw no connection between ‘Imiloa and the TMT application, and her statement that she did not know that ‘Imiloa was part of UH-Hilo. The Board accepted Judge Amano’s explanation and added, “The Board would certainly encourage hearing officers to disclose a broad range of known relationships…but it will not disqualify Judge Amano for not disclosing her ‘Imiloa family membership, which even in connection with facts she did not know, is not something that a reasonable person would consider likely to affect the impartiality of the arbitrator. The Board finds that under the applicable legal standards, a reasonable person knowing all the facts would not doubt the impartiality of Judge Amano.”

The Board also found that the public notice soliciting attorneys to apply to serve as the TMT contested case hearing officer was properly published on January 29, 2016. Additionally the Board ruled that its decision to delegate the selection of the hearing officer to the Board Chairperson did not need to be made in an open meeting pursuant to chapter 92 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (the “Sunshine Law”).  Citing legal decisions, the Board found that the Sunshine Law did not apply to boards exercising adjudicatory functions, such as conducting a contested case hearing. Further, the Petitioners’ claim that they should have received prior notice of the selection process was not required because, “The Board’s decision to delegate authority to a hearing officer and the selection of a hearing officer are properly adjudicatory functions.”

On December 2, 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court remanded the TMT permit application to the circuit court to further remand to the Board for a contested case hearing.  On February 22, 2016, circuit judge Greg K. Nakamura remanded the matter to the Board.  Four days later on February 26, the Board met to restart the contested process.  A public solicitation for a hearing officer occurred, a three member committee evaluated applications, and the hearing officer was announced on March 31.  Three supplemental disclosures were filed by Judge Amano in April, followed by more opportunities for the Petitioners to respond. The Board gave all parties until May 2 to raise legal arguments for or against the selection process and selection of the hearing officer.

Today’s sixteen-page decision denies the Petitioners’ objections and directs Judge Amano to begin the contested case process.

DLNR Announces Appointment of Hearings Officer for Mauna Kea Contested Case Hearing

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced today that retired Hawaii island circuit court judge Riki May Amano (Ret.) has been selected as the hearings officer to conduct the Mauna Kea contested case hearing relating to the application for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope. DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case issued a minute order to the contested case parties today announcing Judge Amano’s selection.

TMT laser

Judge Amano was selected pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes section 103D-304. HRS 103D-104 requires DLNR to assemble and vet a list of applicants. The list is reviewed by a selection committee, which ranks at least three candidates. The DLNR Chairperson then negotiates a contract with the first ranked person. If the DLNR Chairperson is unable to successfully negotiate a contract with the first ranked person, then he or she attempts to negotiate a contract with the next ranked person. In this case, Chairperson Case was able to successfully negotiate a contract with Judge Amano as the first ranked applicant of the selection committee.

The selection committee consisted of:

  • James Duffy, Associate Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court (Ret.);
  • Stella Kam, Deputy Attorney General;
  • Christopher Yuen, Member of the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR).

Any comments on and objections to this appointment shall be filed no later than April 15, 2016, 4:30 p.m. at DLNR Administrative Proceedings Office, 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 130, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813.

Judge Amano will determine the schedule for the contested case hearing.

Judge Amano served as a judge in the district and circuit courts of the Third Judicial Circuit, State of Hawaii from February 1992 until her retirement in April 2003. Judge Amano has been recognized annually as a Best Lawyer in America/Hawaii from 2007 to the present. Judge Amano was born and raised in Hilo; she currently resides in Honolulu. She completed her undergraduate education in 1976 with a BA degree in Political Science and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii in 1979. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Judge Amano was a deputy attorney general assigned to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Transportation and Labor and Industrial Relations; and in private practice from 1981 until 1991.

TMT Site Preparations Beginning

While workers associated with the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island begin maintenance and repair activities, hunting and other recreational activities and research also continue on the mountain.

Suzanne Case, Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources said, “Mauna Kea is very much a multiple-use area for a wide array of cultural, recreational and research activities. Our goal is to ensure that people on the mountain conduct themselves responsibly and with respect for other users. As local workers prepare to begin work at the TMT site, we want to remind people of other simultaneous activities that may be occurring on the mountain.”

TMT laser

November 16-17, 2015 and again December 14-15, 2015 the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) will conduct animal control activities specifically for trapping mouflon/feral sheep hybirds, as well as staff hunting and/or aerial shooting from helicopters for feral goats, sheep, mouflon and mouflon/sheep hybrids.  These activities will occur within critical palila habitat in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve (Unit A), Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve (Unit K) and the Ka’ohe Game Management Area (Unit G). Aerial shooting is required by federal court order to improve and maintain critical habitat for the palila, a bird endemic to Hawaii.  Please see this link for the news release announcing these animal control activities: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2015/09/28/nr15-149/

Also the 2015-2016 game bird hunting season began on November 7, 2015 and continues through Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 on private and public lands.  This includes multiple game management units, forest reserves and other public lands on Mauna Kea.  For specific information on game bird hunting rules and specific hunting areas please refer to this news release: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dofaw/announcements/nr15-160f/.

Case added, “We want everyone conducting customary and traditional practices, enjoying recreational activities, or exercising their free speech rights on Mauna Kea to understand that they are sharing the mountain with many others and we want an atmosphere where kama’aina and visitors can all enjoy their activities, safely.

7 Arrested 6 Cited on Restricted Area of Mauna Kea

Early Friday morning, July 31, 2015, officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement arrested seven men, camping in the restricted area on Maunakea on Hawaii Island. The Hawaii County Police Department provided transportation support and booking and rangers from the Office of Mauna Kea Management provided logistical support. An additional six men were issued citations and voluntarily left the mountain.

Mauna Kea from Mauna Loa

Mauna Kea from Mauna Loa

Under the emergency rule approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources and signed by Governor David Ige, it is illegal to be in the restricted area along Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road from 10 p.m. – 4 a.m. The arrests and citations follow more than a week of awareness efforts to ensure people knew the particulars of the emergency rule. These efforts included the placement of signage around the Mauna Kea Visitors Center and the handing out of educational flyers which detail the specific provisions of the rule. Additional law enforcement efforts can continue at any time while the rule is in effect. DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “Our DOCARE officers have done an outstanding job of informing people about the emergency rule. I’m proud of the professionalism they demonstrated, both in making people aware of the rule and in enforcing it.”

Arrested for prohibited activities (Hawaii Administrative Rules section 13-123-21.2(d) as amended:
Eric Ana, 35, Oahu ($250 bail)
Joseph Henderson, 26, Pahoa ($250 bail)
Laakeaokani Sanborn, 32, Kona ($250 bail)
D’Angelo Montez McIntyre, 29, Oahu ($250 bail)
Marcus Yoshizu, 26, Oahu ($250 bail)
Bronson Kobayashi, 23, Kona ($400 bail, additional for failure to appear)
Pueo McGuire Turcotte, 27, Naalehu ($3100 bail, additional for resisting arrest and contempt of court)

Citations for prohibited activities:
Michael Kyser
Lakea Trask
Sam Whatley-Keliihoomalu
Justin Murphy
Caleb Murphy
Kapono Kuikahi

Pahoa Woman Arrested Again On Mauna Kea – Disruptive to Protestors and Removes Clothes

For the second day in a row, a Pāhoa woman was arrested on the Mauna Kea access Road.

Cynthia Marlin

Cynthia Marlin

In response to a 9:18 p.m. call Monday (July 13), South Hilo Patrol officers responded to the Mauna Kea Access Road, where a woman was yelling. It was reported that she had been disruptive to peaceful protesters and that she had briefly removed her clothing.

At 10:30 p.m., Cynthia Marlin (aka Cynthia Kealahilahi Verschuur Marlin) was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Her bail was set at $1,000. She was held at the Hilo police cellblock overnight and is scheduled to make her initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon (July 14).

Early Sunday (July 12), officers from the Hawaiʻi Police Department processed Marlin on charges of criminal property damage and obstructing after she was detained on the mountain by a Sheriff’s deputy for allegedly using her car to ram the vehicle of an Office of Mauna Kea Management ranger. She was released from custody on those charges the same day after posting $500 bail.

Cynthia Kealahilahi Verschuur Marlin's Facebook picture

Cynthia Kealahilahi Verschuur Marlin’s Facebook picture

Mauna Kea Summit Access Road Reopened – Governor Responds

After performing remedial work and grading, the Mauna Kea Summit Access Road was reopened at 3 p.m. Monday, July 13 (subject to the emergency rule passed by the Board of Land and Natural Resources restricting access from 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.).

Mauna Kea Via UH

Vehicular access above the Halepōhaku mid-level facilities will be by four-wheel drive vehicles only. Two-wheel drive vehicles will not be allowed past the end of the paved road at Halepōhaku.

The Visitor Information Station and its restroom facilities will remain closed. Restrooms are available at the Mauna Kea Recreation Area and Puʻuhuluhulu at the junction of Saddle Road and the Mauna Kea Summit Access Road. Portable toilets for the public are available on the summit.

Governor Ige’s Office Response:

Governor David Ige released the following statement after the University of Hawaii announced that it would reopen the access road to Mauna Kea summit on July 13, 2015:

“The State seeks to provide safe access to Mauna Kea summit by all lawful users. Unfortunately, the destructive actions of several individuals temporarily rendered the mountain road unsafe since June 24. I am pleased UH has reopened the road following its damage assessment and repairs.”

TMT Rules

Commentary – Poor Job Handling TMT Protestors

Governor Ige’s administration, and to a lesser extent, the County of Hawaii, are doing a poor job handling the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests on Mauna Kea. The governor’s proposed changes to the stewardship of Mauna Kea offended both the protesters and the individuals who’ve helped preserve this sensitive area.

TMT laserThe protesters  were mainly unhappy the governor reaffirmed the TMT’s legal right to begin construction, but there were other aspects of the revised stewardship plan the protesters were not pleased about. They were also unhappy the removal of ¼ of all the existing telescopes and imposing access restrictions to the summit area, among other issues

The governor’s stewardship changes also offended the individuals who’ve helped preserve Mauna Kea. It was  like a slap to the face when the governor stated the University of Hawaii and Department of Land and Natural Resources have been poor stewards of  Mauna Kea. There were issues with the stewardship of Mauna Kea in the past. However, there has been immeasurable improvements over the past 15 years. The execution of the Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan in 2010 was one of the highlights of these recent improvements.

Governor Ige’s administration also dropped the ball as far as dealing with these ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope protests. His administration has allowed these protesters to illegally encamp at Hale Pohaku for the past three months and obstruct access to the summit area. Yes, these protesters have a constitutionally protected right to protest, but they shouldn’t break the law in the process.

The elephant the room is the ongoing Hawaii sovereignty debate. The latter has Trojan horsed itself into the current debate over the Thirty Meter Telescope. The State and County of Hawaii are playing softball with these groups as a result. For example, the Hawaii County prosecutor is considering dropping criminal trespass charges against the first wave of 21 protesters in lieu of initiating  ho’oponopono with these individuals. This will entail holding discussions with the governor, the University of Hawaii, Thirty Meter Telescope, DLNR, etc.

The Thirty Meter Telescope has undergone a seven year public vetting process. These individuals had  ample opportunity express their concerns about this project during this time. In short, this is simply another stalling tactic that is being employed by the opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

As it stands now, the Thirty Meter Telescope has the legal right to initiate construction until the appellate courts say otherwise. I hope Governor Ige gets a backbone and  stops pandering to the interests of these protesters.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

TMT Cuts Short First Day of Construction Restart For Safety Reasons

Statement from Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board:

TMT laser

“This is a difficult day for Hawaii and TMT. As we attempted to begin our work today, we were met by protests that regrettably resulted in some arrests. Boulders blocked our access to the construction site and the Department of Land and Natural Resources deemed it unsafe for us to proceed. For the safety of our team, we made the decision to bring them off the mountain and we are planning to resume when the issue is resolved.

“We want to thank the state and county police officers for protecting the safety of our team and the protesters and extend our gratitude to them, as well as to all of our supporters in Hawaii.

“We want to acknowledge and reach out to those who disagree with our project. We respect their views and, looking toward the future, we hope we can work together to find common ground.”

Commentary – TMT Has Bent Over Backwards to Address Concerns

I’ve followed the Thirty Meter Telescope public vetting process over the past seven years. The unprecedented public protests against this project caused me to write this commentary.

The public had equal opportunity to give comments about this telescope project. It underwent an extended contested case hearing process before the Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the conservation district use permit in 2013. In addition, Governor Lingle accepted the FEIS in 2010. There was a 60 day window to contest the FEIS after acceptance. No one stepped forward to do this during that window.

The hearing officer determined the Thirty Meter Telescope met all eight criteria to develop their project in the conservation district.

Click to view

Click to view

In addition, he noted the Hawaii Administrative Rules #13-5-24c permits the construction of astronomy facilities in the conservation district, as long there is a management plan in place.

In short, the Thirty Meter Telescope Corporation has bent over backwards to address all concerns about their project over the last seven years.

This is why it would be huge mistake to revoke their vested permits after they’ve been granted. The TMT relied on these permits to start construction on their telescope.

The possible revocation of their legally obtained permits would bring up eerie parallels to the Hokuli’a project in South Kona. Judge Ibarra invalidated their permits after four years of construction and after Oceanside spent 350 million dollars on their project. However, the big difference between these two project is the fact TMT followed the law when obtaining their entitlements, Oceanside (Hokuli’a) did not.

Judge Ibarra placed an injunction on Hokulia project for 2.5 years until a settlement agreement allowed construction to resume in 2006. I foresee a similar scenario happening with the TMT project. The Mauna Kea stakeholders need to reach a global settlement that would allow construction to resume on this telescope.

The Mauna Kea Comprehensive Management Plan contains an excellent framework to get this process started. For example, the TMT will be last new telescope on Mauna Kea. All new telescope projects after the TMT will recycle existing sites.

However, I believe any global settlement needs to go further.

The University Hawaii and the other owners of the Mauna Kea telescopes should reevaluate the telescope decommissioning plan for the science reserve area. The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, James Maxwell Clerk Telescope and Very Low Baseline Array are facing possible decommissioning before the Mauna Kea science reserve master lease expires in 2033.

This is on top of the scheduled decommissioning of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory slated to begin 2016.

The University of Hawaii also needs to indefinitely delay any attempts to extend the master lease for the science reserve area. The current lease expires in 2033, which means all telescopes on Mauna Kea face decommissioning between 2025 and 2033.

The university naturally wants the lease extended another 65 years.I believe more discussion between all Mauna Kea stakeholders is necessary before this proposal moves forward. If this doesn’t happen, the University of Hawaii risks turning an ugly situation uglier.

Mauna Kea’s telescopes have contributed 92 million dollars of direct economic impact in Hawaii County per year. This figure cannot be understated. If all the Mauna Kea telescopes were removed, it would be a huge economic hit to this island.

This is another reason why all the Mauna Kea stakeholders need to come to together and discuss a mutually agreeable plan for Mauna Kea’s future. These discussion need to occur in a face to face environment and not through social media. The latter has poisoned all civil discussion regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope project and future of Mauna Kea.

Aaron Stene,
Kailua-Kona

Mauna Kea Hui Not Invited to OHA Meeting Originally… Response

To be clear, the Mauna Kea Hui, was not invited to this meeting until only yesterday and only after OHA had released its Press Statement claiming we would be in attendance.

Click to view full news release.

Click to view full news release.

So we have produced this statement in response.

It is the position of the Hui that we will to uphold the wishes of our Kupuna, those who came before us, such as Uncle Genesis Leeloy, Aunty Leina’ala Apiki McCord, Aunty Kamakahukilani Von Oelhoffen and so many more…because they are who moved us to stand for Mauna Kea so many years ago– their message was clear — enough is enough—there shall be no further development on Mauna Kea!

While the Mauna Kea Hui will continue to litigate in the courts, and has been adjudicated to have standing to do so, there is also a higher court here and we stand with our Kupuna in asserting the following positions for the protection of Mauna Kea:

  1. The TMT construction shall be halted and any new leases and/or subleases previously issued by BLNR allowing the TMT to be built and that are currently being challenged must be revoked and/or rescinded forever.
  2. The observatories currently operating on Mauna Kea shall pay fair market lease rent now and until the end of the general lease in 2033.
  3. No further development shall be allowed in any way, shape, or form and upon the decommissioning of observatories or the current general lease has ended there must be complete clean-up and restoration of the Mauna to its original state and condition as the general lease requires. There shall be no rocks, soils or other materials displaced or removed from the Mauna.
  4. We will consider working with State Official to help find solutions for: the protection of Mauna Kea waters and aquifers, clean-up, and restoration of the Mauna, to insure the “right-holders” (those who the laws are written to protect such as Native Hawaiians and the General Public) have a seat at the table of decision making and lastly we are committed to help to ensure educational opportunities and funds for all the children of Hawai`i are upheld and protected.

OHA … our beloved Mauna Kea is NOT for sale!

In Aloha We Remain,

Paul K. Neves, Clarence Ku Ching, Debbie J. Ward, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Kealoha Pisciotta, and the Flores-Case ‘Ohana and KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance.

What the TMT Will Look Like on Top of Mauna Kea

There have been many reports and computer generated memes about what the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will look like on top of Mauna Kea.

Here is another rendition of what it will look like:

Click to enlarge

Artist rendition of what the TMT will look like on top of Mauna Kea (TMT Located at Bottom left of photo) Click to enlarge

KHON2 News has reported that the University of Hawaii has stated that the TMT will be the last project on Mauna Kea and that other telescopes will be decommissioned.

…The university, which manages observatory activity on the mountain, says this will be the last project for the area.

In the years to come, the university also plans to shut down, or decommission, some of the 13 observatories already on the mountain.

“This is the last new site that will be developed,” said Gunther Hasinger, director of the university’s Institute of Astronomy. “We have made a promise that in the long run, there will be fewer telescopes on the mountain, so we will see some of them go away.”

In the past, all the state got from the telescopes now on Mauna Kea was free access to viewing time. The state collected no money, not even rent.

“But for us, that is not the central point,” said Hasinger. “It is the creation of knowledge.”

That will not be the case with the Thirty Meter Telescope.

According to the lease rent schedule, the project last year cut the first check to the state, $300,000, with most of the money going to help
manage the conservation land where the telescope will sit on Mauna Kea. Some of the money will also go to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The rent will eventually climb to $1 million a year…

More here: http://khon2.com/2015/04/13/uh-says-tmt-will-be-last-project-plans-to-decommission-telescopes/

On Thursday April 16th at 11:30, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents will have ANOTHER meeting to discuss the TMT Project and the public is invited to attend and submit public testimony.

University Board of Regents Holding Special Meeting to Discuss TMT Future – Public Comments Welcome

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents will be having a special board meeting to discuss the future of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 11:30 a.m. at the University of Hawaii Hilo campus.
Board  Meeting

Commentary – Call for Moratorium on TMT is “Grandstanding”

The Thirty Meter Telescope project went through a seven year public vetting process, which included a lengthy contested case hearing for the conservation district use permit. The hearing officer upheld the BLNR’s findings, so the BLNR granted the CDUP and the site lease.

The University of Hawaii also implemented a comprehensive management plan for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. This was mandated after the Keck Outrigger decision. The comprehensive management plan has imposed strict conditions on future telescope projects on Mauna Kea. The TMT will be last new telescope constructed on Mauna Kea; future telescopes will recycle existing facilities and footprint.

In short, I strongly believe OHA Trustee Apo’s call to place a temporary moratorium on the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope is pure and simple grandstanding.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Mauna Kea “Protectors” Arrested – Names Released

Twelve persons were arrested Thursday (April 2) after blocking access to construction workers who were en route to the summit of Mauna Kea to begin work on the Thirty-Meter Telescope.

Mauna Kea Via UH

“During the arrests, our officers practiced the Hawaiʻi Police Department’s core value of compassion,” said Assistant Chief Henry Tavares, who oversees police operations in East Hawaiʻi.

Earlier in the week, police were in communication with protesters opposed to the telescope, informing them that they had the right to protest peacefully and asking for a peaceful resolution and cooperation in keeping the roadway open. At that time, police informed the protesters that anyone who blocked the public road leading to the construction site would have to be arrested.

The arrests began at approximately 8 a.m. Thursday and were still in progress at noon. These individuals were taken to the Hilo police station for processing and then released after posting $250 bail:

Ronald Fujiyoshi, 75, of Hilo
Moanikeala Akaka, 70, of Hilo
Joseph Kanuha, 56, of Kailua-Kona
Eric Heaukulani, 38, of Kealakekua
Kelii Ioane Jr., 63, of Hilo
James Albertini, 68, of Kurtistown
Erin O’Donnell, 40, of Kamuela
Craig Neff, 56 ,of Pāpaʻikou
Gary Oamilda, 66, of Ocean View
Chase Kahookahi Kanuha, 26, of Kailua-Kona
Dannette Henrietta Godines, 45, of Hilo
Lambert Lavea, 27, of Mountain View

Thirty Meter Telescope Project Manager Gary Sanders Statement

The time has come to allow TMT access to the public roadway and the TMT project site.
TMT laser
TMT, its contractors and their union employees have been denied access to our project site by a blockaded road. Our access via a public road has been blocked by protestors and we have patiently waited for law enforcement to allow our workers the access to which they are entitled. We sat in our vehicles for eight hours awaiting a peaceful resolution from law enforcement. There was no resolution and our access continues to be denied.

Our permitting and sublease process was a lengthy seven-year public process and agency review.

Our Conservation District Use Permit was upheld in a Contested Case hearing where the Hearings Officer concluded that TMT is consistent with the purpose of the Conservation District and should be granted its permit. The State Board of Land and Natural Resources agreed and issued a CDUP. Third Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura heard the CDUP appeal and ruled in favor of TMT. Subsequently, the Land Board approved TMT’s sublease with the University of Hawaii. Earlier this month, on March 6, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources  issued a Notice to Proceed noting that TMT had met all preconstruction requirements in the CDUP and associated management plan.

A flyer that was distributed recently

A flyer that was distributed recently

We’ve been patient, but the time has come to allow us access to the public roadway and our project site.

Gary Sanders, TMT Project Manager