(BIVN) – The University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents was given an update Thursday on two Maunakea telescopes that are slated for decommissioning in the coming years.
University officials told the Regents during the board’s February 20 meeting on Oʻahu that the UH Hilo Hōkū Ke‘a and the California Institute of Technology Submillimeter Observatory are tentatively scheduled to be removed from the mountain, along with site restoration, by 2023.
Both observatories are making progress in the extensive decommissioning process, according to UH Executive Director of Maunakea Stewardship Greg Chun, who provided the update to the regents. Meeting materials posted online, a video of the presentation posted to YouTube, and a UH-issued media release provide details.
UH has this update on the CSO decommissioning:
CSO is the first telescope/observatory to undertake the decommissioning process after it announced it would cease operations. The deconstruction and site restoration work is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2021 and be completed by mid-to-late 2022. The financial responsibility of the removal and site restoration rests fully with Caltech. The decommissioning will include the removal of the dome, outbuildings and related infrastructure along with the restoration of the site. The astronomical instruments inside the observatory have already been removed.
CSO is now finalizing the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) after completing the required technical surveys, including an Environmental Site Assessment and a Hazardous Materials Assessment. Caltech commissioned a number of studies for the process including an archeological assessment, a cultural setting analysis, a hydrogeological evaluation, a biological inventory, a biological setting analysis, a traffic analysis and an asbestos/lead paint/mold survey.
Along with completing the draft EA, which describes the site as well as the potential impacts of the decommissioning process, CSO is also in the process of completing the historic preservation review, Draft Mitigation/Monitoring Plan and Decommissioning Funding Plan.
As part of the process laid out in the 2010 Decommissioning Plan for the Maunakea Observatories, CSO is also required to complete a Site Deconstruction & Removal Plan and a Site Restoration Plan, all of which are subject to approval by OMKM and the appropriate agencies (along with the necessary permits) before deconstruction can begin.
UH provided this information on the Hōkū Ke‘a decommissioning:
The deconstruction and site restoration of Hōkū Ke‘a is tentatively scheduled to begin in early 2023 and take about six months. The project will follow the detailed process in the Decommissioning Plan for the Maunakea Observatories.
On February 18, 2020, the Maunakea Management Board approved UH Hilo’s Notice of Intent to decommission the Hōkū Kea telescope on the condition that the university simultaneously proceed with the planning and permitting for a new teaching telescope for UH Hilo students and the Hawaiʻi Island community. The process includes identifying a new location, possibly the Hale Pōhaku mid-level facilities on Maunakea. The university is financially responsible for the decommissioning of Hōkū Ke‘a and establishing the new UH Hilo teaching telescope.
The university selected a construction project management firm in February 2020 to handle the planning and permitting for the telescope decommissioning that includes preparing the Environmental Assessment, hazardous material assessments, State Historic Preservation Division clearances, Conservation District use application, design/bid construction package and the archeological plan along with the community consultation, the Kahu Kū Mauna (Native Hawaiian volunteer community-based advisory council) review and acquiring the necessary permits.
The university is in the process of awarding a contract to identify a new location and begin the planning process for the UH Hilo teaching telescope, which would be considerably smaller than the current telescopes on Maunakea.