(BIVN) – Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea will begin on July 15, Hawaiʻi officials announced at a news conference held Wednesday on Oʻahu.
Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige, TMT International Observatory Board of Governors chair Henry Yang, Hawaiʻi Dept. of Transportation deputy director Ed Sniffen, and Hawaiʻi DLNR chair Suzanne Case spoke at the news conference, which was live streamed by various news outlets.
Roads will be closed for “health and safety” reasons, the officials said, as equipment is moved up the mountain. There will be lane restrictions on Saddle Road, and the entire Mauna Kea Access Road will be closed starting at 7 a.m. on July 15. Ed Sniffen said he expects the 24 hour closure will extend for days.
UPDATE – From the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation:
The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) announces that the public can expect Mauna Kea Access Road to be closed starting the week of July 15, 2019 to ensure the safe transport of heavy machinery. Access to the road during the closure will be limited.
Motorists are also advised of the potential for intermittent traffic control on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway due to the transport of heavy machinery. Lane shifts may be necessary near the intersection with Mauna Kea Access Road to ensure safety. Travel will be maintained in both directions on the highway. HDOT will send information on potential traffic impacts to Daniel K. Inouye Highway due to heavy vehicle movement for the public’s planning purposes.
UPDATE – From the Office of the Governor:
The State Department of Transportation announced that Mauna Kea Access Road will be closed and there could be lane and other road closures associated with large equipment movement beginning July 15. In addition, hunting units A, K, and G in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve area will be temporarily closed to hunting effective July 15. Both measures are being taken to ensure the safety and security of the public and personnel involved in moving equipment for the TMT project up the Mauna Kea Access Road.
David Y. Ige, Governor, State of Hawaiʻi:
“We have followed a 10-year process to get this point, and the day for construction to begin has arrived. At this time our number one priority is everyone’s safety. As construction begins, I continue to be committed to engaging with people holding all perspectives on this issue and to making meaningful changes that further contribute to the co-existence of culture and science on Mauna Kea.”
Henry Yang, Ph.D., Chair, TIO Board of Governors:
“After being given all the necessary clearances by the State of Hawai‘i and respectfully reaching out to the community, we are ready to begin work on this important and historic project.
“We have learned much over the last 10-plus years on the unique importance of Maunakea to all, and we remain committed to being good stewards on the mountain and inclusive of the Hawaiian community.
“Hawai‘i is a special place that has long pioneered and honored the art and science of astronomy and navigation. We are deeply committed to integrating science and culture on Maunakea and in Hawai‘i, and to enriching educational opportunities and the local economy.
“We acknowledge those who disagree with our project and express our respect for their views. Lastly, we are grateful for our many friends and supporters in the community during this journey. We also thank our project partners for their steadfast commitment to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawai‘i.”
TMT will be constructed on UH-managed lands on Mauna Kea located in the conservation district regulated by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). On June 19, 2019, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) issued a notice to proceed to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the TMT project. The permit was issued after DLNR confirmed the completion of the pre-construction conditions and mitigation measures required of the project in the Conservation District Use Permit.
UPDATE – From the Department of Land and Natural Resources:
In an effort to protect public safety and provide security and safety for the movement of heavy construction equipment associated with the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawai‘i Island’s Mauna Kea, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case has ordered the temporary closure for hunting of hunting units A, K, and G in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and Natural Area Reserve for hunting, effective July 15, 2019. This means hunting and hunting related activities in the identified hunting units will not be permitted from July 15, 2019, at 12:01 a.m. through August 12, 2019, at 11:59 p.m.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources delegated closure authority to the BLNR Chair in 2015.
The closure can be shortened if circumstances warrant. Anyone who is in the closure area with methods of take such as firearms or bows can be cited or arrested by State law enforcement officers and face fines and/or jail time.
Chair Case commented, “We hope to allow hunting as soon as practicable, but the temporary closure for hunting is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the public and personnel involved in moving equipment for the TMT project up the Mauna Kea Access Road. We understand and appreciate that this closure may be inconvenient and we appreciate everyone’s patience while we focus on safety and security as well as continued stewardship of Mauna Kea.”
The applicable rule is cited in HAR § 13-123-21.1 (Game Mammal Hunting).
The specific hunting area closures are:
Unit A, Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and Game Management Area
Unit G, Kaʻohe Game Management Are
Unit K, Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve
This is a breaking news story that will be updated throughout the day.