(BIVN) – State officials and observatory staff working on Mauna Kea hope that personal safety remains a top priority for all, as recent events have increased tensions on the mountain.
On Thursday, the state announced that the Thirty Meter Telescope project has been given a Notice To Proceed, and law enforcement dismantled four structures – unauthorized by the state, but highly valued by TMT opponents – suggesting that another conflict similar to that which occurred in 2015 might be on the horizon.
The developments have raised safety concerns for those working on the mountain.
“Observatory employees are on Maunakea daily, performing critical maintenance on our facilities, along with support services staff and rangers who care for the wellbeing of all those who visit Maunakea,” said Doug Simons, executive director of Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope. “The personal safety of everyone on the mountain – including our staff – must remain a top priority for all.”
State officials are taking the concerns over safety seriously.
Attorney General Clare Connors said it is important that the conservation about the stewardship of Mauna Kea should not stop, even as the telescope is constructed. “For safety, we encourage that this conversation happens somewhere other than on Mauna Kea,” Connors said. She added:
“Mauna Kea has very limited resources. Restroom facilities are limited. Water is rationed. The route, the roads are unimproved, and even under normal conditions they can be dangerous. And altitude is also a danger on Mauna Kea. As we know, in the recent weeks, altitude sickness can come on quickly and it can cause physical damage. Medical facilities are not available on Mauna Kea and therefore it is difficult to respond to the quick onset of altitude sickness, which can be potentially life-threatening. When construction proceeds, the individuals who will be working on the telescope are going to need safe access to the worksite. They’re going to need safe conditions under which they work. We hope that people will not provoke those who are lawfully engaged in building and constructing the telescope, and we certainly hope that no one provokes a confrontation of the law enforcement officers who are going to be there to protect their rights. We are all in this together and we hope that everyone who comes to Mauna Kea takes responsibility for their actions, their words, and their decisions. The safety of our community depends upon people respecting the law and each other.”
“Those who work on and for the mauna should respect the free speech rights of others,” said Mauna Kea astronomer and Yes2TMT spokesperson Thayne Currie. “Those who want to protest should likewise not endanger the safety of their neighbors by blocking any roadways.”
“So long as these things happen, we should be just fine,” Currie added.
According to information provided by the Maunakea Observatories, more than 500 men and women who live on Hawai‘i Island have careers in astronomy and statewide about 1,400 jobs are sustained annually by astronomy.
“As dedicated members of the local community, the men and women who work at the Maunakea Observatories are grateful for the opportunity to explore the skies from Maunakea, a special place that can uniquely serve as a window into the universe around us,” Simons said.