(BIVN) – The legislation to establish a Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority passed its final senate committee on Friday, and the bill was once again amended by lawmakers.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee recommended that HB2024 HD1 SD1 be passed, but not before introducing a Senate Draft 2 that further changes the bill by creating “joint oversight of Maunakea between the University and the newly created Authority.”
The following is a transcript of the remarks of the Committee Chair, Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz, as he delivered them before the vote was recorded:
The senate is continuing to refine and develop House Bill 2024 to balance the interests and concerns of our native Hawaiian community to properly steward a cultural treasure with the interests of the state, to the University of Hawaiʻi to continue its world-class science-based education and academic research unit in astronomy on Maunakea. In collaboration with the Higher Education Chair, these proposed amendments are reflective of the discussions that we’ve had with various community groups, stakeholders, and from testimony submitted. Thus the Senate Draft 2 is an improvement over Senate Draft 1.
Senate Draft 1 addressed very real concerns regarding the potential demise of astronomy at Maunakea caused by the wholesale replacement of the University with the newly created Maunakea Stewardship Authority, but as noted it was still a work in progress.
Senate Draft 2 creates joint oversight of Maunakea between the University and the newly created Authority. The responsibilities to manage the mountain will be bifurcated and split between two entities. The new Authority will manage approximately 9,450 acres on the mountain, while the University will manage the astronomy research lands comprised of the Astronomy Precinct, the Halepohaku complex, and the Maunakea Access Road, or approximately 550 acres.
The existing 1968 and 1999 state leases between the State Board of Land and Natural Resources and the University will be kept in place. They’re expiring in 2033.
The university, as lessee under the State leases, will sub lease to the Authority within a year of its operational formation, lands totally 9,450 acres – which we have labeled the Maunakea Conservation Lands. The Authority will be charged to properly conserve, protect, and manage the public uses of the Maunakea Conservation Lands. At the same time, the University will be solely responsible to care for and manage astronomy research lands.
The joint oversight structure addresses the perceived threat to the future of astronomy in our State through a collaborative sharing of management duties and responsibilities between the Authority and the University of Hawaiʻi. The current administrative organization under the aegis of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo will be kept in place, and will continue to service the operational and staff needs of both the new Authority and the University, thereby avoiding any additional costs associated with creating a new organizational structure, or two separate administrative structures.
Our goal in Senate Draft 2 was to develop a management structure from a practical standpoint that would be workable, while balancing the diverse interests in conservation, protection, and the regulation of current and future uses of Maunakea.
Senate Draft 2, like Senate Draft 1, provides an audit to be done in 2029. The refinement of Senate Draft 2 continues to strive for the best balance of interest on Maunakea. We realize that each side may not be satisfied with the joint oversight model we are proposing, but unfortunately there is no perfect solution to this controversy. Each side must be willing to work together. A shared responsibility model accomplishes that.
So, working with the subject matter chair, we will be recommending
1. Amending definitions.
2. Establishing a joint authority between the Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority and the University of Hawaiʻi to effectuate the obligations and duties under the state lease.
3. Requiring the University of Hawaiʻi to sublease the lands comprising of the Maunakea Conservation Lands to the Authority within a period not exceeding one year from the formation and operation of the Authority.
4. Limiting members of the Authority to three partial or full terms.
5. Inserting provisions regarding the utilization of personnel and the establishment of the Authority’s offices.
6. Defining the Authority’s purview, responsibilities and duties to encompass lands under the Maunakea Conservation Area to include:
a) a requirement for the Authority to be financially self-sustaining after the fourth year following the transitional period, and
b) the establishment of a process that provides and ensures transparency, analysis, and justification for lease terms and monetary consideration that is equitable, feasible, and financially sustainable.
7. Defining the University of Hawaiʻi’s role as the manager and caretaker of astronomy research land to include:
a) authorizations to develop a framework that may limit the number of observatories and astronomy related facilities,
b) authorization to establish a set of principles for returning the astronomy research lands to their natural state upon the loss of academic or research value of ground-based observatories, and
c) requiring the University of Hawaii to 1.) continue preparations for the completion of the Maunakea Master Plan and Comprehensive Management Plan for the astronomy research lands and Maunakea Conservation Lands, and 2.) prepare and apply for a renewal of the state lease for both the University of Hawaiʻi and the Authority.
d) authorization to enter into cooperative agreements easements subleases or other contracts with the Authority, any state agency, any county agency, and private landowners whose lands are within the jurisdictional boundaries of the astronomy research lands, and
e) commencement and completion of the timely decommissioning of certain telescopes.
8. Declaring that astronomy is a policy of the State
9. Clarifying that guiding values shall perpetuate native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices
10. Requiring the submission of the annual reports each from the Authority and the University of Hawaiʻi
11. Deleting the authority’s authorization to establish an appropriate entryway to Maunakea and specifications to the University of Hawaiʻi’s minimum viewing time at the telescopes
12. Requiring the sub-lease between the University of Hawaiʻi and the Authority to contain specific provisions regarding any sublease issued by the Authority
13. Deleting sections related to general leases, restricting, and planning
14. Requiring the University of Hawaiʻi to negotiate a $1 dollar per year lease with the Authority for the purposes of establishing an office
15. Amending section 76-16b HRS to exempt positions under the authority from civil service
16. Amending section 1 to reflect its amended purpose
17. Inserting other provisions to effectuate the enactment of this measure and to comport with other legal requirements, and
18. Making technical non-substantive amendments to the purpose for the purposes of clarity and consistency.
The bill now goes to the full Senate for a final vote. If approved, the State House of Representatives will have to either accept the altered bill, or iron out the differences in conference committee.