Construction on Thirty Meter Telescope to resume Wednesday - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Construction on Thirty Meter Telescope to resume Wednesday

Rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Construction on the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope project will resume on Wednesday, according to a statement released by the TMT International Observatory Board on Saturday.  

“After more than two months of consultation, education, and dialogue with many stakeholders, we humbly announce that the TMT International Observatory Board has decided to move ahead to restart the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the morning of Wednesday, June 24," said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT International Observatory Board. "We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity."

Construction work on the $1.4 billion dollar project, which was scheduled to begin in March, was effectively halted when protestors began blocking heavy construction vehicles, and later construction workers, from accessing Mauna Kea's 13,796-foot summit. The protests grew in numbers, and though they remained non-violent, at least 31 protestors were eventually arrested.

The arrests helped spur similar anti-telescope demonstrations from across the globe, many of which were captured and shared on social media with the help of outspoken celebrity supporters like Jason Momoa.

In April, in response to the demonstrations, the Thirty Meter Telescope team informed Governor David Ige that construction would be postponed until telescope board members, state officials and Native Hawaiian activists had an opportunity to discuss the issue. Late last month, Governor Ige announced that he had given his official support to the project. 

Despite the protests and months-long timeout, Yang says construction on the project is able to restart thanks to the support of Hawaii residents.

“We look forward to a positive relationship with all Hawaiians, while we understand that the majority of Hawaii's people are supporting the TMT project," Yang said. "We deeply respect and are mindful of those who have concerns, and yet, we hope they will permit us to proceed with this important task while reserving their right to peaceful protest. "

Work crews first intend on inspecting the telescope site and equipment, much of which has been there since protests began in March, before installing a fence around the designated construction zone. 

The following is the full statement from Yang:

“After more than two months of consultation, education, and dialogue with many stakeholders, we humbly announce that the TMT International Observatory Board has decided to move ahead to restart the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the morning of Wednesday, June 24. Our period of inactivity has made us a better organization in the long run. We are now comfortable that we can be better stewards and better neighbors during our temporary and limited use of this precious land, which will allow us to explore the heavens and broaden the boundaries of science in the interest of humanity.

“We look forward to a positive relationship with all Hawaiians, while we understand that the majority of Hawaii's people are supporting the TMT project. We deeply respect and are mindful of those who have concerns, and yet, we hope they will permit us to proceed with this important task while reserving their right to peaceful protest.

“As done at any construction site, we plan to first investigate and assess any possible oil leakage and ensure we can provide proper maintenance of machines and equipment so they operate safely and correctly – in order to protect Maunakea and preserve the sensitive environment. We will then begin to repair and install fencing in the interest of public safety.

“As we proceed, TMT is open and willing to allow cultural practitioners in the area of the construction site to continue customary and traditional practices. Allowing this practice to continue to occur will require further dialogue and mutual agreement to work out the details in order to establish a cooperative and harmonious environment for all parties.

“In an effort to be sensitive to and observant of the Native Hawaiian host culture, we will deepen our knowledge of the cultural, ecological, and spiritual aspects of the mountain and continue to learn how to better respect and appreciate Maunakea's important cultural areas.

“On behalf of TMT, I want to express our sincere appreciation to the people in Hawaii for their understanding and support.”

The following is a response from a group that opposes construction of the TMT, Sacred Mauna Kea Hui:

SMKH reaffirms strongly, proudly and with all aloha our commitment to reinforce the blockade and continue to pursue legal routes while being forced to protect the Mauna with our bodies.

SMKH strongly feels that many laws have been circumvented that make UH, DLNR, the State of Hawaii and the TMT project disparagingly liable for breach of law and legal processes and with the Supreme Court case confirmed that it would be illegal, immoral and unethical for the TMT project and its supports to disallow the full and entire process of law to run its course regardless of the Governor's relinquishing of responsibility in giving the ok for the TMT project to move forward.

We implore the Governor, UH, DLNR, the State of Hawaii and the TMT project to rescind its intention to continue desecration and violation of the mandate to steward the endangered species environment that is our Mountain's summit and reaffirm that all these entities are subject to all responsibility for the well­being of the Mauna and protectors being forced by the Governor, UH, DLNR, the State of Hawaii and the TMT project to put body, freedom and life in jeopardy in order to facilitate the just process of law that is still in motion and should be respected.

SMKH reaffirms its commitment to continue to call on its world wide and local support for all protection efforts of the Mauna including continuing to put our bodies between the desecration of construction and our sacred Mauna and endangered species environment so poorly managed and neglected in regards to legal mandates set in place currently meant to protect the conservation district and cultural resources that are the Piko, or sacred summit of our First born elder Mauna Kea."

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