(BIVN) – An update on the status of two Maunakea observatory decommissioning projects was shared during a recent meeting of the Mauna Kea Management Board.
In December, it was reported that the project to remove the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory has been paused until spring. The telescope has been removed and set to shipped to Chile for re-use. Deconstruction of the dome and restoration of the site on the mountain summit will resume after the winter, Caltech said.
“Demolition materials and equipment have been removed from the site,” said Greg Chun, the Executive Director of the University of Hawaiʻi Center For Maunakea Stewardship, reporting to the Maunakea Management Board. “HELCO will start to remove the transformer sometime this spring, and (the Institute For Astronomy) will be removing the fiber optic cable – again, likely sometime this spring.”
Chun said the timeline still calls for the decommissioning to be completed this year.
In the meantime, Chun said the Center For Maunakea Stewardship has been working with the UH Office of General Counsel, Jesse Souki, and Caltech Counsel, on a termination agreement for the CSO sublease.
CSO has agreed to make a payment as an addendum to the agreement, Chun said.
“As you may recall, there has been interests and concerns expressed about what
happens in the future, if and when – should astronomy cease to be operating on
Maunakea – what happens to all of the summit-wide infrastructure,” Chun said. “The roads, the utilities, the communication network, all of that stuff.”
Chun said that back in 2019, they underwent a “process of estimating those costs, and came up with a method for allocating those costs to the different observatories. That was going to be included in new subleases that we had begun working on.”
Chun said CSO agreed to pay an allocated share for that future summit-wide infrastructure removal, “even though they’re not required to.”
Chun said those funds will be put into a special account, and will eventually be transferred to the newly formed Maunakea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, for the purposes of summit-wide infrastructure removal.
Chun also gave an update on the planned removal of the smaller Hōkū Keʻa observatory.
“We now have the confirmation that the agreement with the contractor has been finalized,” Chun said. “The contract was awarded to Sakoda Contracting, which is a Hilo-based firm. The notice to proceed will be issued, with work to begin, on or about March 4th, depending on weather.”
“We have have scheduled a preconstruction meeting with the contractors and their subcontractors, already,” Chun said. “That is scheduled for February 14th, where we will be providing a safety, health, cultural resource management, and construction briefings. This is all in preparation for the work to ensure that, and in compliance with, the decommissioning plan and the (Environmental Assessment) to ensure that the work is done correctly.”
Chun noted that UH-Hilo Astronomy and Physics staff “will be holding a private department farewell function, before the start of decommissioning, to kind of commemorate the good work that Hōkū Keʻa produced over the years. And to say their final goodbyes, privately.”