(BIVN) – Law enforcement is standing down on Maunakea, but tensions remain high at the encampment occupied by opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope project, who believe they may be removed by force sometime after a December 26 deadline.
Governor David Ige announced on Thursday that the Mauna Kea Access Road will reopen since the Thirty Meter Telescope project is not ready to proceed at this time, allowing “for some respite during the holiday season.” State Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers will be leaving the area.
“We certainly hope that they’ll move off the mountain, as well,” said the governor, talking about TMT opponents. “We are working with Hawaiʻi County to reopen the road and provide access to everyone.”
“The specific timeline is not determined,” Governor Ige said. “We are being prudent, we certainly would encourage the protesters to remove their equipment but certainly I can’t speak for them.”
The governor would provide no further details on clearing the site during the press conference.
However, according to the leadership of the Kū Kiaʻi Mauna movement, the state provided them with a specific deadline.
“Lino Kamakau comes down here today and tells us that we have until [December] 26th to remove ourselves and the structures from this road,” said Kahoʻokahi Kanuha during a video statement recorded later on Thursday. “So, depending on who you talk to and when you talk to them, you’re going to get different answers.”
Lino Kamakau is the DOCARE Hawai’i Island Branch Chief and has handled most of the direct communication with the TMT opposition.
According to Kanuha, Kamakau “also relayed to us is that the last time they came here – and they confronted us and we had an arrest made, that they made those arrests and they handled that situation in a very professional manner. This time, however, according to them it will be handled very differently.”
Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim issued a statement, saying “the County government is working to establish communication with the kia‘i to address the current situation, with the intent of restoring flow of traffic and public access to Maunakea Road to all of the community.”
The mayor said that “there was no information regarding TMT’s timetable, as to if or when they will resume planning for construction of the telescope on Maunakea.”
“It is my goal that this will be the beginning of a true meeting with all parties to see how this issue can be resolved, in finding a way forward,” Mayor Kim said.
“Maunakea remains our preferred site,” said Dr. Gordon Squires, TMT Vice President for External Relations. “The project and our individual partners are committed to moving forward in a manner that honors and supports our scientific goals, environmental stewardship and the traditions and culture of Hawaii.”
On December 20, TMT posted a new story to its website, announcing the successful preliminary design review of the Observatory Safety System (OSS).
“Passing this review is a significant achievement for the project and establishes the technical, management and process foundation that will form the bases for the final design of the Observatory Safety System,” said Jimmy Johnson, TMT Lead Software Engineer and OSS Work Package Manager.
Puʻuhunua o Puʻuhuluhulu, an official outreach channel for the TMT opposition, tweeted on Thursday:
After spending $15 million dollars on law enforcement operations since July, the state has decided they will continue to incur more by threatening a sweep if Kiaʻi remain till the 26th. One thing is clear, no matter the states plans, we will be here to protect the Mauna.