(BIVN) – Two days before the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents is expected to consider a Maunakea stewardship resolution, members of the public shared their concerns with the Mauna Kea Management Board as board members met in Hilo.
Four people spoke about the resolution during Monday’s MKMB meeting in the Kūkahauʻula building on Astronomy Row, as the management board considered its position on the proposal.
“The governor came up with a plan, it would seem, without consulting this board,” said Deborah Ward, “because many of the recommendations shocked and horrified the board. I think that is exactly what’s happened with the Board of Regents.”
“I feel so strongly that the people that come from Oʻahu, that do not understand the nature of what’s going on here, make decisions for us that have no real value ,” Ward said.
The resolution drafted by the UH Regents’ Maunakea Governance Permitted Interaction Group, which was formed in August 2019. “The group, consisting of six regents, proposed the resolution after engaging with university administration, government officials and outside advisors and looked into issues related to the university’s stewardship and governance activities on Maunakea,” the university says.
Among the 12 recommended action items recommended by the resolution, is the following:
A new educational telescope facility for the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo shall be established on already developed land at Hale Pohaku or elsewhere, as soon as can be permitted, with a target date no later than April 30, 2021, to ensure the prompt availability of a teaching telescope. The Board of Regents shall support the funding of the planning, design, and construction of the new educational facility.
The Regents also recommend:
Administration shall make a CIP request during the 2020 legislative session for monies to plan, design, and construct an educational center at Hale Pohaku and/or another appropriate site on Maunakea that will educate visitors on cultural, environmental, and astronomy related topics relating to Maunakea.
The proposed increase in development at Hale Pohaku is concerning to Leilani Lindsey-Kaʻapuni, one of the kūpuna arrested on the Mauna Kea Access Road in opposition to the Thirty Meter Telescope. “As a Hawaiian practitioner, and as someone who has lineal connections to Maunakea, Halepōhaku is a very culturally significant area, even though it has been severely impacted by development,” Kaʻapuni said. “I will adamantly oppose a cultural center at the Halepōhaku area, as well as the establishment of a new observatory there.”
The educational telescope, named Hōkū Keʻa, is identified as an observatory that must be removed from the summit, or decommissioned, as a condition of the permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope. However, at its previous meeting, the Mauna Kea Management Board did not accept the Notice of Intent to Decommission the Hōkū Keʻa, because it wants to see the student observatory relocated below the summit, at the mid-level Halepōhaku.
“The removal of the only student teaching telescope just because it’s owned by the university is short-sighted and painful to those of us who think that the university’s mission is to be teaching, not building more telescopes,” Ward said.
Ward also testified about the proposed recommendation to put a deadline on the mandated decommissionings, which states:
Two (2) observatory sites known as the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and Hokukea site shall be decommissioned no later than April 30, 2021. For purposes of this resolution, the term “decommissioning” shall mean the complete removal of all man-made structures at each respective site bringing each site to as close as feasible to its natural state prior to construction. These will be the first two of five observatories to be decommissioned.
“The idea that the telescope would be decommissioned by 2021 is unrealistic,” Ward said. “A Notice of Intent, a site assessment, an EA and an EIS with public comment periods, for each. BLNR review of a conservation [district] use application, and permit approvals must be completed, before contracts can be let to remove these facilities. In Phase Two, which has only now begun to be described, after the top and the floor is removed, then an analysis of the permeable cinder will characterize the pollutants that have been put in the French drain, and into the toilets, and determine the depth of the material to be removed. This will not be completed by 2021, no matter how much the Regents would like it to be done.”
“This is the first decommissioning on Maunakea,” Cory Harden testified, “and we really need to get this right, so they should not be rushed through. It’s going to set a precedent for decommissioning in the future.”
Peter Young, whose Ho‘okuleana LLC was hired to handle CSO decommissioning planning and outreach, told the Mauna Kea Management Board that Caltech is submitting testimony to the UH Regents “asking that the date be changed to December 31, 2021, not April 30th.”
“It’s just not practical to have it at the end of winter,” Young said, “and we still need to go through the formal permitting process. The same permit process to build a telescope is what we’re being asked to do to take down a telescope.”
The Mauna Kea Management Board voted to send testimony asking the Regents to defer making a decision on the stewardship resolution, and to keep the Maunakea Governance Permitted Interaction Group in place in the meantime. Big Island Video News will be posting video of that discussion.
At the November 6 meeting in Hilo, the regents may adopt or amend the Maunakea stewardship resolution, or defer a decision.