(BIVN) – Tuesday, August 13, was day 30 since the intended start of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Instead, opponents of the TMT project have held their ground on the closed Mauna Kea Access Road, preventing construction crews from ascending the mountain.
Tuesday was also the first meeting of the Mauna Kea Management Board since the TMT standoff began in mid-July. The meeting was held the Kūkahauʻula Building in Hilo.
The situation at the base of Mauna Kea received only brief mention in Office of Mauna Kea Management director Stephanie Nagata’s report to the board. But access issues for OMKM were a persistent theme in the updates given by Nagata, as well as Natural Resources Program Manager Fritz Klasner.
Nagata on Access: “A remnant of the old saddle road which runs parallel to the Daniel K Inouye highway is currently being used to connect the Mauna Kea Access Road above the current road block. This road has deteriorated from disuse but is the only readily available access to the upper sections of Mauna Kea. The spur road, as we normally call it, is lined with vehicles in tents, people walking about – including children – not making for a safe access for those who work on the mountain. Access for observatory personnel and deliveries of supplies such as water, gas, and fuel requires informing the Office of Mauna Kea Management – who, in turn, informs DOCARE [Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement] of the names of observatories, number of vehicles, and estimated time of arrival. This information is then transmitted to the kūpuna. For deliveries involving large vehicles, such as water and fuel tankers, prearrangement has to be made to use the main access road. And at the point they reach the kūpuna tent, they drive around the kūpuna tent and then regain access to the main paved road up to the mountain. Now MKSS and UH personnel do not require the same procedure of notifying DOCARE and the activists, but our personnel have been blocked from going from going up the mountain to carry on their stewardship functions.”
Nagata on VIS Parking Project: “The ingress / egress parking project near the Visitor Information Station is finally completed. A final inspection was made and the contractor was issued a letter of substantial completion. The Visitor Information Station, however, still remains closed due to the roadblock. So, currently with the new configuration, there are about 50 parking stalls, a walkway from the parking lot to the Visitor Information Station and a one-way ingress drop-off lane that runs parallel to the Access Road. Completion of this project is in compliance and fulfills one of the Comprehensive Management Plans action of putting parking and vehicle pul outs on the same side of the road as the Visitor Information Station.” An attempt to replant roughly 200 Māmane trees that had to be removed due to the VIS project failed due to an unexpected frost. Nagata said a greenhouse will next be constructed to facilitate continued Māmane outplantings.
On Communication With TMT Opposition: Board member Alapaki Nahale-a, who also sits on the UH Board of Regents and served as hearing officer for the recent round of public comments on the proposed Mauna Kea administrative rules, commented on Nagata’s report. “It doesn’t acknowledge the impact of the folks who are blocking the road,” Nahale-a said. “When I first joined this board, what was communicated to me is that … basically, this body has no say or influence over TMT, and that project moving forward. So, I guess, since you did spend a lot of time in the report documenting the efforts that are being made to allow access for the astronomy community, the dangers that are present there, I feel like it’s warranted for me to ask if… we are involved in any way in addressing, communicating, coordinating the actions and activities around those who are choosing to block the roadway?”
Nagata answered that OMKM’s communications have been through DOCARE.