TMT takes steps to resume construction at Mauna Kea

TMT takes steps to resume construction at Mauna Kea

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Thirty Meter Telescope has announced plans to re-start construction on Mauna Kea, the mountain many Hawaiians consider to be sacred, just a day after TMT released results of a poll that shows a majority of Hawaii residents support the project.

TMT officials said a small crew of local workers will make their way up Mauna Kea to the site of the planned Thirty Meter Telescope sometime this month to begin site preparation for construction.

"The initial work is going to be maintenance of the vehicles.  A lot of the vehicles that have been on Mauna Kea have been idle for the last seven months so that's the initial work that's going to be taking place," said TMT spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

Lakea Trask, an Aloha Aina advocate who was arrested twice this year during protests on the mountain, said, "We've been waiting for them to come and do the repairs to their machines up there, which have been up there for months now and have been leaking oil and have had different issues with them."

TMT officials would not say exactly when in November the initial crew will return to the mountain or when construction on the new telescope is set to begin.

Asked why TMT is starting work seven months after construction was halted amid protests by native Hawaiians who say they are the protectors of the sacred mountain, Ishikawa said, "We have global partners that are doing manufacturing for the telescope that will eventually become TMT. And TMT just felt it was time to move forward with the project."

About 574 segmented mirror banks that will create TMT's large primary mirror have been manufactured in Tokyo.

Trask said many other activists are ready to return before construction starts up.

"Any kind of construction or destruction continues on our mountain, we'll be there," Trask said. "Our people are ready. They're ready to stand for what is right. They're ready to take care of our mountain, that which takes care of all of us."

Ishikawa said, "We respect the right for peaceful protest and demonstration.  We're just asking for the respect for the safety of our workers as they go back to the mountain."

A poll conducted for TMT by Ward Research released Monday found 62 percent of residents across the state support moving ahead with construction of the telescope. A slightly smaller percentage -- 59 percent  -- of Big Island residents back the project.

Support for the project is split among Hawaiians and part Hawaiians, with 49 percent of those polled against the project and 44 percent of them supporting it, the poll found.

The poll was conducted in October via wireless and landline phones with 613 Hawaii residents. The margin of error was plus or minus four percent.

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